MICHAEL Moore loves the US so much that his documentary-making career has shaken America’s tree to collect the unlovely social and ethical fruit that drops from its branches.
He has a sharp eye for things that are not right about his homeland and deft talent for filming uncompromising interviews and POV observations of public figures whose performance is below par, then assembling them into feature docos with teeth.
For “Where To Invade Next” Moore visits several European and Middle Eastern countries to see how they handle social and ethical issues. Slowly, threads of purpose connect their individual solutions in a common factor – how the US deals with those same matters. If that sounds like Public Policy 101, it indeed is. But one with warmth, sympathetic treatment, frequent humour and the realisation that many public policies now flourishing in other countries originated or once were routinely practised in the US.
Moore regrets that America has lost its compassionate pioneering social spirit. His film demonstrates that loss in archival footage that especially targets blacks and women, wounding lower classes in the process. Only one of the foreign countries he visits has a shame needing expiation – Germany. The elderly lady sitting beside me came close to tears (as did I) watching footage from the Holocaust intercut with Moore interviewing students proud about how their curriculum confronts the horror of those times full on and determined never to allow it to arise again.
Other sequences show employees of profitable Italian businesses having as many as eight weeks paid vacation each year, four-course free lunch at French schools designed by a dietitian and the chef, cooked on the day and served at table rather than collected in a chow line, a Tunisian clinic where women needing terminations may have them at public expense, the Norwegian high-security prison with only four warders who join inmates in singing, three Portuguese police inspectors explaining how their country has a zero drug-related crime rate and many more.
Moore pushes a barrow. Beside embarrassment that his homeland, having practically invented what he found, has now come so close to abandoning it, the barrow contains a heart-warming optimism. If his habit of planting the Stars and Stripes everywhere he visits seems a tad chauvinist and hubristic, it’s a tiny discomfort to endure for such an entertaining film.
At Palace Electric