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Human Rights Watch FF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Laura Nix – ‘The Yes Men Are Revolting’

Human Rights Watch FF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Laura Nix - 'The Yes Men Are Revolting'

Laura Nix is an independent filmmaker committed to exploring
provocative characters and subject matter. She directed the documentary “The
Light In Her Eyes,” about a Syrian Quran school for women, which premiered
at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2011, was broadcast on the series “POV” on PBS and was included in
Sundance’s Film Forward program.

Other feature directing credits include the
critically acclaimed fiction feature “The Politics of Fur,” which
played in over 70 festivals internationally and won the Grand Jury Prize at
Outfest, and the documentary “Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of
Hedwig,” for New Line Cinema. Nix co-wrote the Emmy-nominated PBS doc “California
State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown.” Her nonfiction television work has
appeared on HBO, IFC, Planet Green and the History Channel. (Press materials) 

Nix co-directed “The Yes Men Are Revolting” with Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos.

“The Yes Men Are Revolting” will premiere at the 2015 Human Rights Watch Film Festival on June 12. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

LN: “The Yes Men Are Revolting” is about two guys, Mike and Andy, who have collaborated for almost 20 years to fight injustice through their very own unique form of activism — they impersonate voices of authority at business and government events to make a political point about who has this authority and how they use it. In this film, the third documentary about the Yes Men, they find themselves confronting the biggest challenge the planet has faced — global warming — while their partnership is also going through a huge shift.

W&H: What drew you to this story? 

LN: I’ve known the Yes Men for a long time, and for this film I wanted to pull the curtain back farther and not be restricted to what the public already knows about them. The previous two films focused on the stunts, which are amazing. But I also wanted to give the audience a sense of who these guys are, where they came from and why it became challenging for them to keep pulling off actions after nearly two decades. I think their ability to get back on track in spite of the obstacles can be inspiring to anyone who wants to see change in the world.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

LN: All the usual challenges of making an independent documentary were true for this one: raising money, keeping the project on track over a number of years, etc. But for me personally, the challenge was to simultaneously rely on and throw away my usual filmmaking instincts. The Yes Men had ideas sometimes that were best left in the brainstorm pile, like wearing Rambo outfits for their trip to Uganda (long story). But it wasn’t always wise to immediately say “no, that’s crazy,” because some of their most absurd ideas can evolve into something brilliant. In the midst of an action, I was always ready to think, “It’s over, this is never going to fly. We’re going to get kicked out of here, or worse, spend the night in jail.” But the Yes Men always have confidence that it will work, and they’ve done it dozens of times. I had to be more fearless and learn how to jump off the cliff.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

LN: I hope people will leave the theatre believing that whatever little bit they can do to help change our world will make a difference: What matters is speaking up. The powers that be want us to think we don’t have that strength, and whatever we do won’t have an impact. In this film, the Yes Men even begin to question their own effectiveness. But by the end, they realize that continuing the fight is what matters, and joining up with other people is what gives you the energy to keep going. That’s what I hope the audience feels too.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

LN: It’s not that different than advice I would give any director, which is to work with people you believe in. From production assistants to executive producers, you need to have a team that has faith in you, and you need to have faith in them. You have to finish what you start. Maybe that feature you began will become a short, but you need to complete it.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

LN: I’m not sure there’s a particular perception to challenge. I’m interested in provocative characters who are capable of surprising me. And the subjects I’ve focused on occupy a wide path. My first feature was a fictional comedic melodrama, my most recent documentary was about a Qur’an school for girls in Syria and this one is about activism and climate change. My next documentary is about middle-aged people discovering ballroom dancing in a Chinese suburb of Los Angeles. For me, getting to spend time in a world I find fascinating is a great privilege, as well as a pleasure.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

LN: Our film, like many independent docs these days, is a hybrid of funding. We raised money on Kickstarter, made a few European pre-sales and received a number of grants from foundations like the Bertha Foundation, BritDoc, the Danish Film Institute and the Sundance Documentary Fund. We also received a few significant donations from passionate individuals who believed in the project.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

LN: I always find this to be a tough question. Today it would be a combination of a film made by Ulrike Ottinger and Kim Longinotto.

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