Where to Invade Next  – An Engaging Documentary Laced with Half-Truths
When I learned that Michael Moore’s new documentary’s title is “Where to Invade Next” (2015), I thought that the demagogue documentarian is heaving a frustrated sigh and asking ‘What’s Next?’ His joyous rebellions, witty indignation and little too much of strident opinions were appealing and engaging to create enough of unique visual opinion. But, with his last documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009), the right mix of clamorous notions see went out of proportion, and it started to get crankier. The frustration and the one-note angrier tone wasn’t refreshing, in terms of ethos (of course, we don’t watch Moore to appreciate artistic merits). So, the title for his latest documentary seemed to boast the same slanted vehemence. But, surprisingly Mr. Moore had changed onto his usual sarcastic tone, handing out fun and inspiration, and fittingly pondering less on the overt gloom.
“Where to Invade Next” opens with mirthful and slightly gimmicky premise. Moore says that after decades of military failure, the Joint Chief of Staffs has summoned him to Pentagon to give them a clue on what should be their next invading point. Moore suggests giving their troops a good rest and that he will initiate a one-man invasion to different countries around the globe and claim their vital resources. With that playful tone, Moore starts his opinionated journey, where he listens a lot and shows little cynicism. Moore’s jolly good invasions are to steal other country’s best ideas. Ideas that talk about the welfare of people more than the ones that predominantly puts economy before people. He travels to many European countries to learn everything ranging from individual’s personal life/work to women’s rights.
In Italy, he interviews a series of company workers, who were awarded eight weeks of paid vacation in a year and a lot other eye-popping allowances. In Germany, he goes through sunlight shining factories, where the employees work 36 hours a week and where it is illegal for the boss to send mail or call up their workers during the weekend or at vacation. German education institutions also send out a strong message on how one shouldn’t forget their country’s past sins to not make the same mistake in the future. In Slovenia, he encounters college students enjoying a free education of great standard. In Finland, the innovations in educations are mind-blowing and their school teaches kids to prepare for good, peaceful life than to stack up their memories with formulas. In his invasion of Norway and Portugal, Moore comes across the government’s policy on drugs and incarceration. In a maximum security prison in Norway, the guards send a strong message to prisoners, in the form of soulful songs. In the small North African country Tunisia, Moore steals their idea of Women’s rights, and in Iceland, he claims a lot of forward-thinking, especially the nation’s decision to strictly prosecute bankers, who had caused the financial meltdown in 2008.
If Moore is amazed by these European countries’ humane treatment of its citizens, as a citizen of India I am more envious. How could this be possible? Doesn’t it look like some crazy optimistic ideas that will falter in the long run? I have also trained myself to be cynical of many alleged truths and so these questions plagued me. Is Mr. Moore painting a rosy-romanticized picture of Europe with all these interviews showing their nation’s top politicians, CEOs and even prisoners? Yes, there’s a little romanticism, but one which Moore acknowledges early in the documentary. He states how there are all kinds of darker things happen in these countries too, but he is there to invade only their good ideas (or resources). There’s a good, introductory exploration of all these ideas, which immediately urges to do our own research and makes us think how it would work or how it could be presented in our own demographics. What he asks and whom he asks all the right questions brings within us the notion of bias, but Moore himself is at least aware of it and tries (although not fully succeeds) to eradicate it. Europe has the incendiary immigrant problems. Despite being a rich economy, why do the Scandinavian nations have the high suicide, mental illness and depression rate? If we do our own research, we can definitely brood over the darker side even within these good ideas & serene environment.
But, despite few of the easily dismissible viewpoints, Moore is able to persistently stir our thoughts. The chief point in “Where to Invade Next” is to state how the forward-thinking initiatives in Europe were all once originated & implemented in America. He wants to look at the irony of the present state of America’s alleged exceptionalism. Since Michael Moore, despite those conspicuously persuasive opinions, stands for liberty and equality, it is hard not to get attracted by his earnest plea for change. Although Moore uses more anecdotes than robust data, we can see that his point is not to showcase the European version of Oz; he just wants to urge the American public to reinstate decency & humanity for a better American future. Seen fro that perspective, “Where to Invade Next” gives more satisfaction than what Moore did in the last decade.
Michael Moore in “Where to Invade Next” (120 minutes) not only lectures American government about its failings, but also suggests a way out of the bureaucratic entanglement. We may have distrust in Moore’s opinions and interviews, but as usual he doesn’t fail to provoke our thoughts.