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public health films - yes_men

Directors: Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith
Duration: 80 minutes
Year: 2004
Key words: Globalisation, activism
Summary: The Yes Men stage stunts highlighting problems caused by the World Trade Organisation around the world.

Degree of public health theme coverage: This documentary is not directly related to public health but the issues of globalisation and corporate power are ones that relate to key public health issues relating to traded commodities (eg, tobacco, processed food, alcohol, hazardous consumer goods). There are also indirect health issues associated with globalisation and worker exploitation. Score=2/5

Sophistication of analysis of public health content: The analysis is moderately sophisticated in that various experts are interviewed and some of the arguments around corporate power and globalisation are mentioned. However, some of the statements by Michael Moore (interviewed twice) are perhaps more at the anecdote level. There seems to be no consideration of the potential beneficial aspects of freer trade (eg, how trade appears to have contributed to lifting millions of Chinese and Indian people out of extreme poverty over recent decades). Score=3/5

Potential for empowerment and use of advocacy: The movie provides numerous examples of creative advocacy techniques – eg, spoof websites, spoof performances (posing as World Trade Organization (WTO) representatives), use of the media (TV and print media), stunts using Barbie dolls (around the issues of sexual stereotypes), and anti-violence themes built into computer games etc. Some of these might appear to some people to be rather far fetched but the creative use of audiovisual presentations and of use of the media are more applicable to advocacy activities in general. The general impression conveyed was that these stunts stimulated responses in some audiences (ie, especially the student one filmed) and to media coverage of some of the issues. Score=4/5

Persuasiveness of the movie: The documentary nature contributed to this movie's plausibility. Nevertheless the farcical and quirky nature of the stunts may make the movie less persuasive to some people (eg, if they think that a person has to be a brilliant actor to pull off such stunts). Some viewers may not find some of the people interviewed (eg, Michael Moore) as particularly credible and persuasive. At the end of the movie is shown a website about “The Yes Men” - Score=4/5

Engagement and cinematic quality: The movie seems very engaging and enjoyable to watch – especially since some of the stunts were so outrageous and the audience reactions so interesting. The creativity is impressive and the movie is fairly fast paced. The technical quality is reasonably good. Score=5/5

Total score = 18/25

Questions for discussion:

  1. Is there a role for these type of advocacy stunts to achieve public health goals?
  2. In contrast to the content of this movie are there reasons in favour of globalisation from a public health perspective?

Other information:


Associate Professor Nick Wilson
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
PO Box 7343
Wellington South 6242
New Zealand

Tel: +64 4 385 5541 ext 6469
Fax: +64 4 389 5319

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