July 1, 2009.
Dear Friends at the Jerusalem Film Festival,
We regret to say that we have taken the hard decision to withdraw our film, “The Yes Men Fix the World,” from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (http://www.bdsmovement.net/).
This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.
This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as “fascist” – not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s painful to think that they could be right.
As we’re sure you know and deplore, the Israeli government has recently authorized the construction of new units in an illegal West Bank outpost – one that is illegal even according to Israeli law. On Monday, nine Palestinians were injured as Israeli authorities demolished their East Jerusalem home. Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped a ship from delivering medicine, toys, and other humanitarian relief to Gaza, and detained over twenty foreign peace activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate. Meanwhile, a UN commission was in Gaza investigating much worse abuses committed early this year.
Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn’t help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that’s the bottom line.
There is certainly another way to do things in Israel/Palestine, and that is what we must fight for, however feeble our means. As for our film, there is another way for it to be seen in Israel… and in Palestine, so that the people most in need of comic relief, who would never have been able to see it at the Jerusalem Film Festival anyhow, will be able to see it too. Within the next few months, we will make this happen.
To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
L’shanah haba’ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men
Background info on The Yes Men:
* “It shines with raw wit and originality.” – Newsweek
* “Comedic vigilante justice… Media-savvy pie-to-the-face.” – USA Today
* “This movie is a hoot, and a pertinent one at that…. There’s something tonic about the impudent laughter this engaging documentary provokes.” – Hollywood Reporter
* “One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and two of the ballsiest guys I’ve ever met. Thank God for the Yes Men.” – Morgan Spurlock, director of Supersize Me
* “Finally the high priests of the free market get a massive dose of the disrespect they deserve. Hilarious, therapeutic, inspiring. The Yes Men are geniuses.” – Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo
* “The Yes Men use ridicule of the most subversive sort to expose the way in which corporations dishonor human life.” – Village Voice
* “The Yes Men Fix The World could be this season’s choice.” – Screen Daily
THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD premiered at this year’s Sundance to sold-out crowds and standing ovations, and has won the audience award at several film festivals so far, including the Berlin International Film Festival.
* Film stills
* Production stills
* Taiwanese trailer
* Poster (Sundance)
* Press clippings
* Production notes / press kit
THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD (dir. Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Kurt Engfehr, 2009) is a screwball true story that follows a couple of gonzo political activists as they infiltrate the world of big business and pull off outrageous pranks that highlight the ways that corporate greed is destroying the planet. Along the way the duo discover the culprits behind the cult of greed, and in a wildly uplifting ending, they find a way for everyone to defeat the cult and save civilization from its own worst excesses.
Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are two guys who just can’t take “no” for an answer. They have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, they lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate nemeses in ever more extreme ways – basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run our world.
After years of doing their thing, the Yes Men pull off a stunt that opens their eyes to exactly how much danger we all face. Andy, purporting to be a Dow Chemical spokesperson, gets on the biggest TV news program in the world and announces that after 20 years of denial, Dow will finally clean up the site of the Bhopal Catastrophe, the largest industrial accident in history. The result: as people worldwide celebrate, Dow’s stock value loses two billion dollars. People want Dow to do the right thing, but the market decides that it can’t. The reality hits Andy and Mike like a ton of bricks: we have created a market system that makes doing the right thing impossible, and the people who appear to be leading are actually following its pathological dictates. If we keep putting the market in the driver’s seat, it could happily drive the whole planet off a cliff.
At conference after conference, the Yes Men try to wake up their corporate audiences to this frightening prospect, in the process taking on some of the world’s biggest and baddest corporations. Just one example: as Exxon, Andy and Mike demonstrate a new biofuel made from climate-change victims. It’s a gut-busting laugh riot – one of several in the film – to see the unsuspecting audience learn that the lit candles they hold are made out of dead people.
On their journey, the Yes Men act as gonzo journalists, delving deep into the question of why we have given the market more power than any other institution to determine our direction as a society. They visit the twisted (and accidentally hilarious) underworld of the free-market think tanks, where they figure out a way to defeat the logic that’s destroying our planet. And as they appear on the BBC before 300 million viewers, or before 1000 New Orleans contractors alongside Mayor Ray Nagin, the layers of lies are peeled back to reveal the raw heart of truth – a truth that brings with it hope.
Hope explodes at the end of this film with a power that may take audiences straight out of the theater and into the barricades. A word of warning to theater owners: make sure your seats are securely screwed down.
Bonus: this film has one of the very few underwater ballet scenes you will ever see in a political documentary.
This film is dedicated to the ongoing struggle of the people of Bhopal to achieve a crucial global precedent. Please visit www.bhopal.net and contribute whatever you can – your money, your talents, your time.
WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY
Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano
Renegade Pictures UK
The Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation
COMMISSIONING EDITOR FOR ARTE FRANCE
BIO: The Yes Men impersonate captains of industry, agree their way into the fortified compounds of commerce, and then smuggle out stories that provide a hilarious glimpse at the behind-the-scenes world of big business. They were the subject of a feature film (The Yes Men, 2004) and have recently pulled off some of their most ambitious and audacious acts, which are the subject of their current feature, The Yes Men Fix the World. (Film stills, director stills, funny interview.)