Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?

Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Whatever you think of Morgan Spurlock’s incisiveness when it comes to issues, there’s no denying that the man has style. When it comes to presenting complex ideas inventively, he’s pretty hard to beat and he brings both a sense of energy and great deal of personal charm to his latest documentary, which concerns itself with that thorniest of subjects - the Middle East.

Certainly the inspired opening sequence – featuring an animated Osama Bin Laden rapping across the world to MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This – is an attention grabber. And it is this sort of vitality that holds the key to what is successful in this documentary, despite its failings. This, you see, is a Middle East primer largely aimed at the Xbox generation – and despite many critics receiving its slightly glib approach as though presented with a particularly ripe sweat sock, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

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The action is framed within a computer game set-up – which sees Spurlock and OBL face off in pixellated form. Each game ‘level’ happens in a different country – from Egypt to Morocco, Pakistan and beyond in search of the elusive al-Qeada leader. It is unlikely that the average British adult will find much new in this whistle-stop tour. People are – would you believe it? – people, wherever they are from and 'it’s a small world after all', are the messages high on Spurlock’s agenda. That said, cinemagoers who would no more choose to sit through a Middle East documentary than head off to an al-Qaeda training camp for their summer holidays, may well be drawn in by the antics of Spurlock. A sort of diet Michael Moore, he is never less than personable and although his decision to frame his trip in the context of his wife’s pregnancy is ill-advised, not to mention a trifle mawkish, there’s still something here to admire.

While he may only scratch the surface of the issues, he does manage to show the crushing poverty which can lead to a build up of resentment which, in turn, can be channelled by those with murder in mind and he also makes the point that most people are fully able to make a clear distinction between the actions of the American government and the opinions of the average US citizen in the street. This is certainly a triumph when it comes finding the voice of moderation across the Middle East – so often forgotten in the hysteria of the press - and he also captures the absurdity inherent in many aspects of ‘life in fear’, such as a bomb squad being called to blow up a package containing nothing more dangerous than a bikini.

If you are looking for a documentary that handles much of the same material in a similarly quirky vein but in more depth, then Bruce Petty’s Global Haywire is probably a better stopping place, while those who prefer their factual films with more grit would be better looking out for Martyr Street or 5 Days, which touch on some similar subjects. Even fictional films such as Ahlaam and Under The Bombs might be more suitable choices for those looking to extend their understanding, rather than take Spurlock’s revision class.

That said, if you want to introduce a teenager to these kinds of issues without fear of overly traumatising images or a fidget factor that will send them running from the room, you could do a lot worse than sit them in front of this.

Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2008
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Morgan Spurlock goes in search of the al-Qaeda leader.
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Daniel Hooper **

Director: Morgan Spurlock

Writer: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock

Starring: Morgan Spurlock

Year: 2008

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: France


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