Published May 04, 2009The merry pranksters of American activism are back wreaking havoc on the world's greedy corporations. Following their eponymous 2004 cinematic debut, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (with Kurt Engfehr behind the camera) now take aim at Dow Chemical.
Dow bought Union Carbide years after its pesticide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984 exposed half-a-million people to toxic pesticides. It's estimated that 16,000 have died from the world's deadliest industrial disaster. Nearly 20 years later, the parent company awarded each victim's family a "generous" $2,200 U.S., though victims claim that very little of that cash has trickled into their pockets and they continue to drink poisonous water.
Enter the Yes Men, who create a fake website (dowethics.com) that the BBC find. The BBC interviews Dow spokesman Jude Finisterra (aka Bichlbaum) who on live TV announces that Dow will clean up Bhopal and properly compensate the victims. In the next 23 minutes, Dow's share price falls 4.2 percent, or two billion in market value.
The hoax, which is the central one in this smart, entertaining film, not only blames Dow but points fingers at the mainstream Western media, which ignored the Bhopal anniversary and the lingering injustice. Stung by media criticism that the Yes Men cruelly raised hopes among the victims, the Yes Men travel to Bhopal to check with the victims themselves. (Guess who the victims blame?)
Sure, the Yes Men are blatantly left wing. Sure, they don't like corporations. Sure, their movie suffers from too much voiceover telling us the obvious. But their film reminds us that giants like Dow are a force unto themselves and beholden only to stockholders who demand profits over conscience. The Yes Men Fix The World makes us laugh as it opens our eyes.