|Review by Clay N Ferno|
Despite the title, Where to Invade Next isn’t a military strategy guide, but rather a brilliant look at global routines in other civilized countries that the US could take a cue from.
Where to Invade Next is subversive documentarian and divisive liberal political pundit Michael Moore’s latest movie and his first film since 2009. Moore takes us around the globe to point the camera back at ourselves in a different light as he uses invasion as a metaphor for cafeteria style policy changes that we could use in the United States as a means for treating our citizens better.
Stylistically, the movie isn’t as aggressive or pushy as his other films.
This one takes an already much described ‘kinder and gentler’ style as Moore visits these other countries to tackle everything from free health care to school lunches.
Where to Invade Next may just have enough style and grace to appeal to both sides of the aisle and at the very least get a conversation going about what changes would or could happen here at home for a better tomorrow.
Moore, at the time of writing is in the ICU fighting against pneumonia, unable to attend his usual battery of screenings and talks as the movie opens. This part of the film’s promotion is important for any filmmaker, especially documentarians as fleeting interest in the genre is relegated to bored weekend afternoons on Netflix and 99¢ rentals on streaming media ONLY IF there is not a new season of Orange is a New Black to catch up on.
Thankfully, Moore has been in the spotlight and has enough juice behind him that he is garnering enough attention, and by that I mean mainstream FOX News attention, about the current water crisis in his hometown of Flint, MI before being sidelined in the hospital.
I was recently turned on to this movie by his pre-crisis Marc Maron episode pushing Where to Invade Next. And yes, I am sure we will see this in the iTunes 99¢ bin eventually and when it does, I’ll personally give Where to Invade Next another bump.
The concept is simple; Moore ‘invades’ a number of foreign countries to plant an American flag on their turf (something we’ve been doing for hundreds of years) as he meets with and consults with regular people, policy makers, prison guards and ex-Presidents to see how things are done on the other side.
The movie starts in Italy, where a young couple of a police officer and clothes buyer regale Michael with their vacation schedule. Italians are given 85 days of vacation a year and that doesn’t include an extended maternity or paternity leave for parents, and also a 13th month of pay in December (what we may consider a Christmas bonus). Yes, all of these vacation days are paid time off, on top of the two hours of lunch with the family that these well-taken care of workers are allowed to take each day at their own homes.
As some of the Italian CEOs point out, a well rested, well taken care of worker gets sick less, has the energy to perform their job well and there is no conflict between the profit of the company and the welfare of the workers. Moore plants his first flag in the Ducati factory floor (with the first CEO of any company to meet Moore on a factory floor)!
Where to Invade Next invades many other countries and has a scathing look at our American school lunch programs by sitting down with some kids in France who are eating for an hour a day, almost as if lunch was a class where kids learn to share food and eat respectfully with one another, with a pitcher of water to wash down lamb kebabs, couscous, a cheese and flan for a meal that appeals to all senses.
Also on the school grounds in Finland, we hear of the dangers of our American teaching policy of teaching for standardized tests, as the Finnish kids are given 0-20 minutes of homework a day and are encouraged to spend the rest of their time socializing and playing with their friends. Finland focuses more on creativity and independence than we do in the States, and has the highest rated schools in the world.
Other countries invaded by Moore and his crew include Slovenia (free college), Germany (where they teach about the dangers of repeating the Holocaust daily and without covering anything up), Portugal (decriminalized drug use), Norway’s innovative prison system, and the dominance of female lead politics and board rooms in Iceland.
The point to be made about this film is that with given our resources, we could ourselves be nicer to our neighbors, our kids, our environment, our people of color and to our women if we adopted some of these smart tactics at home. It’s hard to pick a favorite invasion here but I’ve never wanted to live abroad as much as after seeing this movie!
This movie inspires, if not just inspires the discussion about how real change can happen in a short period of time. Let the detractors say that Moore picked some highlights of these global economies without pointing out some of the negatives in the—such as higher taxes in certain countries.
Higher taxes to sustain these lifestyles are absolute truth, but arguing against the documentary doesn’t help you understand the artful big picture he’s illustrating here. There are plenty of other countries in the world he could have focused on and invaded, like any Asian country for example, not expressed in the film, where schools are very highly rated (Japan) but students work harder than they do in the United States, are more stressed out, and kids go to school more days of the year, rather than less.
Some advance reviewers are calling Where to Invade Next a more subversive film than his previous films and to that point I would more disagree than agree with that point.
What it is might be a more easy to digest film than his other more irritated works, and may be the spoonful of sugar for the mainstream to take a dose of the truths he is getting at, and more people can start to understand this liberal hero as he stands up to the man once again.
This time, he’s not pointing the microphone at the chair, he’s pointing it at all of us an asking “What are you going to do about things, here, now, and today to make it all better for all of us, not just yourself”?