Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Yes Men Are Back!

If you haven't had the pleasure to see the newest Yes Men movie The Yes Men Fix the World, you're missing out, but there's still time left. The last screening is Thursday at 9pm at the Alamo Ritz. I'm not sure, but I don't think it'll be actually released until the fall of this year.

The second film thrown into existence by the Yes Men is a joy ride. I'd go as far as to say it's better than the first. They have definitely become more skilled and proficient in utilizing comedy and satire as a means to an end. There are more gags, corporate conferences, and "narratives" to keep the documentary fresh and engaging throughout. I jotted down just a few techniques they had employed to suck the audience in and still convey a strong message.

In the beginning of the film at the first conference they go to, Andy Bichlbaum wears an eye-glass camera to infiltrate the unsuspecting crowd and seek candid reactions. Just like Ellen had suggested with the wireless lavs, the eye-glass cam is a non-intrusive means to get the reactions and content that you want - reactions free of conscious filters brought on by the "imposing" presence of a documentarian. The downside is that the use of such devices can lead to ethical issues. But, there's always the editing room to make those decisions, right? One of the most vivid reactions given by an attendee of one of the hoax speeches was caught on camera by the eye-glass cam. I won't share it with you (you'll just have to see the film), but it drove the point home of what the Yes Men are against, and it was a moment only made possible by the hidden camera.

The Yes Men Fix the World also utilizes old cartoon animations continuously throughout the documentary to illustrate the "innocent" evils of capitalism. The ideology of the animations are in great congruity with the ideology of the film. The silliness of the cartoon characters in what they are doing is as silly as the real life events and circumstances that are happening in the world "free market" and greed-based capitalism. Not only do the animations add to the satirical and comedic nature of the film, they are used purposefully as transitions within the documentary. The transitional aspect of the animations is that they are of a different medium and illustrative technique, but they are still very intact with the main ideology and principles of the film (activism and satire). Think of creative ways to do transitions that contribute to the story of your film.

Reactions. I'm not sure of any other documentary that utilizes reactions more readily than the Yes Men. From using eye-glass cams to juxtaposing their own reactions to people whom they interview. A lot of the comedic reactions where manipulated in the editing stage of production. When a fervent capitalist would finish with some outrageous response, it would immediately cut to the five second reaction of Andy and Mike staring bug-eyed with complete silence. From these reactions, it is now established that we're not looking towards the interviewees for the "facts" and "opinions" but instead have become attached to Mike and Andy and now identify with there "bug-eyed" responses. However, during each event, the documentary sets up the gag, but it begins to focus more on the attendees of the conference not just Andy and Mike. It usually utilizes the most revealing and comedic reactions from the audience at critical points during the speech. Also, after every event, the crew finds random conference attendees and interviews them. This is a good gorilla tactic in getting fresh response and reactions from individuals who are at the front line of the Yes Men cause. Through these reactions we can tell whether or not Andy and Mike's fiasco has worked in either an troubling enlightening manner or in a progressive and positive manner. These reactions are crucial in that they measure the events as either successful or as failures and help the documentary to be more about reactions than the hoaxes themselves.

They also utilize a blue screen with the interviews as a means to amuse the viewer with another gag. They ask the interviewees what they would like to have as there background. Most of the backgrounds are what they wish, but the Yes Men take liberty in changing some of them to less serious backdrops to more satirical and "associative" ones. This device allows the documentary the ability to mock the interviewees even further and associate them with what ever they find purposeful. This can obviously be seen as malicious mockery but hilarious nonetheless.

And finally, the documentary uses a "narrative" throughout the beginning of the film. They have become down on there luck and are looking for another hoax to pull off. I can surmise, that this actually happened, but they didn't actually happen to film it. So, they filmed not a reenactment but a comedic illustration and a loose representation to the exposition of the film. Rather than skipping it or putting random (non-essential) b-roll with VOs, they created a creative narrative of the Yes Men finding new hoaxes to do. This expository narrative was cinematically shot (canted, stable shots in HD with high-production value), utilized acting, and contained a VO as to clearly separate it from the actual events and consequences that happened mainly in DV with real circumstances (sometimes bad audio, non-acting, hand-held).

It was great that both of the Yes Men were at the screening and answered some questions after it. It's fortunate to hear that when asked if they are worried about people now recognizing them as hoaxers they replied with "No..." So, the Yes Men should be back once again for another great satirical and politically progressive documentary!

The Yes Men Website
Here's the trailer.

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