Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review: Where To Invade Next, a documentary by Michael Moore

I'm quite a fan of Michael Moore films having enjoyed being both educated and shocked by Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling For Columbine. Therefore I was happy to spot his newest documentary Where To Invade Next in the Ritzy Cinema listings for the very evening when we were staying up near Brixton. The film was only released here on the 10th of June so, for once, I was one of the first to see a movie!

'Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore returns with what may be his most provocative and hilarious film yet: Moore tells the Pentagon to "stand down" — he will do the invading for America from now on. Where to Invade Next is an expansive, rib-tickling, and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. The creator of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine is back with this hilarious and eye-opening call to arms. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted.'

It's an unusual premise for a film and the three of us - myself, Dave and his daughter Carrie - were engrossed throughout the two hour screening. It helps that the Ritzy has very comfortable seats! I did feel a bit uncomfortable about Moore's marching everywhere carrying a large Stars And Stripes, but I guess that would appeal more to the folks back in America and it was a successful parody of their current imperialism. What fascinated me was the difference in views about work-life balance and how to live well between many of our European neighbours and ourselves. (Well, between them and America obviously but much of the UK's self-perception seems similar to America's.) We gawped at Italy's standard eight week holiday entitlement and Slovenia's universal free university education, and were impressed by France's school meals system - both the food itself and the the children eating as though in a restaurant - Tunisian women's bravery is inspiring and Iceland's gender laws with regard to company board composition could have prevented the banking crisis. Plus having not so long ago read One Of Us, about Anders Breivik, seeing Norway's rehabilitating prison system was particularly interesting especially as it was contrasted with brief glimpses of the brutality of American prisons.

A timely release considering the current Brexit hysteria, I wondered whether the common sense portrayed in Where To Invade Next will persuade any Leavers that some European ideas are actually pretty good. After all, we in Britain have EU legislation to thank for the 48 hour working week and paid annual leave (great article about this by Snigdha Nag here). Moore does present a rather one-sided view by plucking the best idea from each country he visited and not always presenting a realistic view of the struggles needed to achieve it. However these isolated idea grabs were pretty much the idea of the film and, overall, I thought we were left with an uplifting utopian view, but one which could actually be very achievable - if there wasn't always more emphasis on profit for a few rather than good lives for many.

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