Where To Invade Next


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Where To Invade Next
"Moore is hopeful for the US, too, as he strolls along the remnants of the Berlin Wall, built to last and tumbled nevertheless."

Semper Fidelis - Michael Moore conquers Europe and a slice of Tunisia on a one-man mission, invading countries to bring back to the US the treasures he has found. He plays Dorothy without Toto - and most likely in sneakers - who sees what exists in the world beyond Kansas in Where to Invade Next.

A curious detail - that might have slipped by Moore, the Conquerer, who appears to be someone not too focused on fashion - is seeing how many of the happy middle-class Europeans are dressed alike, no matter which country they are in. Multi-coloured fast fashion with lots of purple and ornamentation, most likely bought in chain stores that manufacture their clothing cheaply in countries far away under very different conditions, visually signal an international problem that isn't talked about. The cost of fast fashion globally is highlighted in Andrew Morgan's documentary The True Cost.

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Moore's first stop is Italy, where a policeman and his wife, who is a buyer for a department store, talk about the 35 days vacation they get each year, the 15 days extra for their honeymoon and the annual 13th salary in December to buy presents and go on holiday. He visits a clothing manufacturer, that supplies Burberry, among others, where all employees go home for a two-hour lunch and he talks to Claudio, CEO of Ducati Motorcycles, the first CEO ever who agreed to meet Moore on the factory floor.

France is the next stop on his yellow brick road invasion. A school cafeteria in Normandy where children eat from real plates, drink water from glass glasses and the refrigerator stocks 80 types of cheese, has Moore shake his head in disbelief. Lunch in this very average small-town school is treated as a class - where children learn how to eat in a civilised manner. They serve each other food, the day of Moore's visit there seems to be a scallop appetizer [it is Normandy - so, of course] and couscous as part of the main dish, and no vending machine is anywhere in sight. The school chef and a dietician plan the menu together.

On to Finland, introduced to us by slightly puzzling yodeling sounds, we learn that the country is the world's number one in education. The secret to their success, it turns out, has to do with less homework, abolishing standardised testing, and care that includes ideas such as architects consulting kids for the construction of playgrounds. An education adviser tells Moore that much what they are doing right stems from originally American ideas. It's all about a happy life.

Slovenia, the country that has one letter less in their alphabet - Moore wonders when they dropped the W - also has college students with no debt, because University is free. Students protested against a proposed tuition fee being instituted whereas tuition hikes in the US often result in no public response at all, as though they were a natural phenomenon.

The famous pencil factory of Faber-Castell in Nuremberg, Germany, is his next invasion target. Proud members of a thriving middle class explain that when work is over, work is over. It is against the law for employers to contact their employees while on vacation. No one needs to answer e-mails after working hours at home, they state with a smile and bring up the free three-week spa treatment that can be applied for. Half of the board consists of workers. A clip from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph Of The Will reminds us of the history of the city we are in, something that all students from early grades onwards are very much aware of. History is talked about and students are engaged in never forgetting with what Moore points out is "treated as their original sin".

A May Day rally in Lisbon leads to a conversation with Portuguese policemen about the fact that there are no drug arrests because drugs are not illegal. In one of the most comprehensive juxtapositions, Moore contrasts this system to the US where race and drugs, offenders' prohibition to vote, and free labour in prisons are linked in a vicious cycle.

The Norwegian prison system is explored on an island and in a maximum security facility that has its own recording studio and singing guards. In Tunisia, he discovers free government-funded women's health clinics and the fact that abortion is legal since 1973. Iceland had the first woman president in 1980, and the only bank in the black during the recent collapse of Iceland's economy was run by women. The country did actually prosecute those responsible and the economy has recovered with more women in positions of power than ever.

Moore is hopeful for the US, too, as he strolls along the remnants of the Berlin Wall, built to last and tumbled nevertheless. Three years ago, gay marriage was not possible in the US. "Name something that seems impossible," he grins as he confirms that "the American dream is alive and well everywhere but in America."

Is there really no place like home? And what does home mean today? We do know that May Day was invented in 1886 in Chicago. At the end, Billie Burke floats in and chirps: "You always had the power to go back to Kansas." And Moore brings back a big suitcase of ideas for change with him.

Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2015
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Michael Moore considers what the US could learn from other countries.
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Director: Michael Moore

Writer: Michael Moore

Year: 2015

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US

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