When the title card for Michael Moore’s production company Dog Eat Dog Films splashed across the screen at the start of his new documentary Where To Invade Next, it hit me how long it has been since the acclaimed filmmaker put out a film. It has been six years since Capitalism: A Love Story and I had almost forgotten about how important his films are. It’s unfortunate that unless he’s in front of us promoting something or giving his opinion he’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. I promise not to make that same mistake again, especially after his new feature.
To me, Michael Moore has had an incredible track record of making pivotal documentaries, asking the pertinent questions and giving pretty straight forward facts without kowtowing to any sort of outside bias, other than his own, which I can live with. Whether it’s a searing look at healthcare country by country in Sicko or something that makes us question the information we are given by the mass media in Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore always gives us something to discuss and debate amongst ourselves once we’ve left the theatre or pressed stop on the DVD or Blu-Ray.
With these accolades to back him up, I think Michael Moore has made his most thought provoking film yet with Where To Invade Next. In a very satirical way, Moore starts off his new film by saying that he had a meeting with the leaders of the United States, including members of the Pentagon and high up military officials, stating that he would be a one man invasion teams into the countries that the U.S. had failed to “conquer” and bring back things for Americans to claim as their own. Then, with the ol’ star spangled banner in hand, we see Moore set out on his world invasion mission.
Country by country, Michael Moore visits city after city to take deep looks at each the systems within. He first heads to Italy to question companies and employees about how they hand out vacation time and the treatment of big corporation’s workers. Then he goes to France to see that their school cafeterias serve real nutritious food to their students and treat it as a class of knowledge and etiquette in which the children seem to prosper, even in low income neighborhoods. We then shift to Finland, where the school curriculum is not about preparing students for standardized testing but exploring where the pupil’s talents and drive lie and focusing on that. All these ideas, Michael Moore claims for the U.S. as he “conquers” each country by leaving his flag as a statement.
The craziest thing about all of these “new” ways of thinking and approaching large issues in every first world country is the feeling that it is so foreign to us but when presented on screen in this manner we feel a wanton need for this to work for us in our countries, whether it be Canada, U.S.A., or England. Do I want my kid paying off debt the rest of her life to get a degree here in her home country or would I feel better sending her to Slovenia where she can experience a free education with many other North Americans? It almost feels like a dumb question.
I really love how Moore tackles his subjects and especially how he conducts his interviews. Although he may not look it, with his signature ballcap and frumpy style, Moore is an incredibly smart and articulate man who puts himself across in his interviewing as an average and slightly less academic American who is absolutely flabbergasted to any different approach to education, politics and lifestyle. It almost comes off as a funny lampooning of how the average red stater might think but Moore makes it no mystery that he’s in the same boat as the idealistic citizen who want to help America be the place it still believes itself to be, the land of opportunity.
It’d be naive to say that all these new methods that Moore steals for America would actually work when brought here. The taxing system obviously lacks the transparency to enable any sort of trust from the people that our money is going to the right places and any sort of increase to make these programs and ideas work would be met with a staunch resistance based on these facts. You may be able to poke holes based on the belief of how these would fall apart here, but you can’t help but admire how places like Iceland, Tunisia and all the other places Moore visits on his conquering tour have prospered with ideas that are outside the box to us.
I feel that once again Michael Moore has tapped into issues that are forefront and important in our lives today and, maybe, his ideology put forth in Where To Invade Next may give us pause to look at how our own systems feel a little lacking in humanity. A lot of what he comes across in his travels seem to hinge on the treatment of others and helping your fellow man or woman, something that seems to take a slight backseat in our continent, even with all the movements for human rights and equality. There always seems to be a price tag attached to every societal evolution we make.
I think the thing I appreciated most about this film is that it was the most optimistic film I believe Michael Moore has ever made. Who can forget those final moments of Bowling For Columbine when he left that photo on then NRA president Charlton Heston’s doorstep. Where this movie lacks some of that punch, it gains momentum by it’s ability to inspire within its viewer, hopefully reaching the minds that can truly make a difference. I really liked Where To Invade Next and give it a must see rating of five out of five.