Saturday, February 27, 2016

Where to Invade Next: Documentary Review

European travelling with humour and thirst for knowledge.

Where to Invade Next is a refreshing documentary. One that informs while it entertains; one that looks forwards as much as it looks backwards, and one that is hopeful and honest in a very simple way. Its structure makes it easy-to-swallow, and its broad subjects make it very easy to sit back and watch. Director Michael Moore has an anger in many of his documentaries – an anger that in some people (like me) impassions, but for other people, just rubs them the wrong way.   2016

Directed by: Michael Moore

Screenplay by: Michael Moore

Starring: Michael Moore

Moore is still angry, but he’s not framing this movie that way. He’s taken that frustration of – and I feel this is key – not just the current American political landscape but all of the political and societal choices over the decades and centuries, and he’s turned it into optimism, and humour. If others can do it better, then why can’t we? And another key point, he doesn’t attempt to answer “why can’t we?” but leaves that question open-ended by simply concluding, “others have done it better.”

His first invasion is Italy. But before we discuss Italy, let’s take a moment to appreciate the full genius behind the title and playfulness that he very impressively demonstrates. The title “Where to Invade Next” is exactly the type of title you would expect Michael Moore to give his new documentary – he’s angry, he’s frustrated by the amount of money that America spends on its military, and he wants to show American citizens why we shouldn’t do that. This movie is not that, and yet the title still fits. He’s going to pretend to be an arrogant American and walk into other countries to steal whatever he can. There’s also a humour in this movie that is so perfectly in place with American stereotypes. He will happily play the ignorant American to get the foreign leaders and policy-makers to educate him; while he’s earnestly learning what makes their policies successful, he’s being funny, and he’s passing it all onto us. Then he’ll just claim their foreign ideas as his own – the others all get the joke, and many have some pretty great responses to him.

In Italy, he talks to factory workers and employers about their sex-life and their productivity. Seriously, strangers are happily discussing their sex-life with Michael Moore on camera, but don’t worry, it gets more insightful than that. My favourite trip was to a school cafeteria in France, where I couldn’t help but think I would be a lot healthier if I had that type of food education as a youngster, he also concludes it with some pretty shocking numbers to back it up.

Trips to Norway and Portugal, especially, show policies very different from the American way. Some I want implemented right away, others would be much harder, but like all his trips, provide food for thought. It concludes in Iceland to discuss the financial crisis, after historical and societal discussions in Germany and Tunisia, and interesting educational discussions in Finland and Slovenia.

Cynics out there will complain that he’s just cherry-picking these countries and these policies, and that nobody’s perfect. Of course, but I think he makes that clear. All this documentary does is humorously and optimistically point out societal differences in a grass-is-greener sort of way. Just sit back, laugh and learn some interesting facts about foreign countries. Even the most liberal out there don’t think this is actually going to change anything.