IN searching for flowers instead of leaves, Michael Moore travels mainly across Europe to ascertain where to invade next.
“Where To Invade Next,” having its U.S. premiere tonight at the 53rd New York Film Festival, is also his latest documentary. The title has to be an intentional misnomer. The provocative filmmaker had to know that most minds were going to go in the direction of war.
In this scathing, surprisingly coherent and often funny indictment of U.S. public policy, MM travels to country after country where the government has embraced with a great degree of success ideas (flowers) that originated in our great nation.
Ideas and ideals that we have abandoned in the name of the almighty U.S. dollar to the detriment of our country and culture. Ideas and ideals he’d like to bring back, inspiring MM to plant the American flag in these lands – the invasion, if you will.
It’s a crying shame.
The Fins credit the U.S. in part for the success of their education system. Norway borrowed a leaf from our constitution in not imposing cruel and usual punishment on its citizens, the prison population included.
Killers roam free on the prison grounds, which could be mistaken for a country club. They have flatscreen televisions, well-stocked and well-maintained libraries.
Prison guards are not armed. Prisoners handle sharp objects such as knives. They retain their voting rights. Killers, rapists, robbers – scum, right? The goal is to reform, not enslave the individual.
Iceland, the first country in the world to democratically elect a female head of state, was inspired by our example of a women’s liberation movement several decades before. Numerous countries adopted our May Day, a day that workers have off unlike here.
On and on it goes. Though "Where to Invade Next" is MM's most lighthearted doc, it is also the most troubling, for it reveals a multitude of our sins. Occasionally, MM allows public officials, public servants, students and ordinary citizens to look into his camera and tell us what they really think about our policies.
Talking points include the criminalization (just say no) of drugs, how to educate our children (enough already with all of that homework and standardized testing) and how we must treat each other humanely; adopt a posture of "we" instead of "me."
Anticipating the critics who will rightly point out that he only focuses on a lone good aspect of these countries, MM emphatically stated that this is the job of their respective citizenry and journalists since he isn't well-versed about the problems of other nations.
He is, he asserted, telling an American story. One he managed without filming a single frame on American soil, he revealed during the press conference after the press and industry screening of the film. (See videos throughout this article).
As a country we have much to do and much to answer for “Where To Invade Next” posits – from the aforesaid, to the state of our education system from pre-K through higher education, to the rise of the food industrial complex, to the pitiful state of the American worker.
What in tarnation are we getting right, Yours Truly, asked MM? Surely, the Michigan native will be taken to task, too, for only airing our national shortcomings. Well, there is rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop and massive cereal choices.
Seriously, Michael, is that all?
“We elected Barack Obama over John McCain. That was a good idea, I think," he said to applause. "That saved us a little bit.”
Visit http://www.filmlinc.com to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.