He might do it with a sledgehammer but with his latest instalment, Michael Moore does shatter some illusions and bring some home truths about misplaced cultural superiority – relevant beyond America’s borders.
Michael Moore’s latest radical documentary, ‘Where to invade next’, takes us on a not-so-clearly-defined tour of various countries within and outside of Europe, loosely described as being “Western Caucasian” cultures, to see what the die-hard “American Dream” society might have to learn.
Moore creates humour through exaggeration – admittedly, self-confessed – bringing us up close to only certain aspects of each country we encounter. Everything from progressive women’s rights in Tunisia, gourmet meals for even the most deprived of French school kids, homework-free education in Finland and Norway’s holiday-like rehabilitative prisons.
No doubt simplistic, if not patronizing, as a European, you think – this is not meant for me. As the audience you are an American redneck in the role-play that is Michael taking you through lessons in human dignity and justice and telling you in no uncertain terms – we are getting something horribly wrong. There is a particularly compelling moment when a Tunisian woman pleads to the camera, “We know everything about your culture and way of life – but what do you know of ours?”
Some of it is seriously saccharine – “just had sex” Italians frolicking on the beach, bragging about their 30+ days paid holiday. Female CEOs from Iceland declaring that it is women that will save the world. A French school canteen chef claiming he’s never eaten a hamburger – “it’s not food”.
But not all of it is trivial – he also focuses our attention on the prominent place the Holocaust has in the German school curriculum. And relentlessly questions the parent of one of the victims of Norway’s recent mass shootings – “why wouldn’t you kill the killer if you could?”
And perhaps as Brits, whose culture creeps ever closer to the American way, once we pause our sniggering, might find ourselves questioning our own status as we contemplate being left in the hands of a Conservative government outside the liberal pull of our EU institutions.
He might do it with a sledgehammer but with his latest instalment, Michael Moore does shatter some illusions and bring some home truths about misplaced cultural superiority that are relevant beyond America’s borders. As he reflects on the German’s acceptance of their past, he states “We should not be afraid to say our country has been built on genocide and on the backs of slaves.” A harsh reality most Western societies rarely remember but cannot escape.
The new film from Michael Moore is now showing in UK cinemas.