TIFF 2015 Review: Where to Invade Next18 September 2015 / by Reza Hassanirad (author)
Where to Invade Next
Director: Michael Moore
Muckraker Michael Moore returns with another cinematic exercise in hasty generalizations, questionable statistical reasoning, and dubious inferences.
And as always, it's fun, funny, and sometimes even enlightening.
This time out, Moore isn't the one wagging his finger at the invader; he's the one doing the invading. But he's not liberating distant lands that have plentiful oil and unpronounceable names. Rather, he's leading the charge across the pond to plant the star-spangled banner in European capitals, and claim their good ideas for the American homeland. Or so goes the tongue-in-cheek conceit of his survey of European best practices.
Moore's bloodless invasion tour trumpets the enlightened practices of the conquered for the edification of his benighted but beloved home country: Italians know the value of leisure and are drowning in vacation days; the Finns have the greatest education system in the world because they've done away with such silly things as homework; the Slovenes appreciate the value of free higher-education; the Germans have wisely implemented laws against employers electronically contacting workers after 5 pm; the Portuguese have lowered drug use by legalizing all drugs; the Norwegians allow their prisoners to roam freely in bucolic pastures; Iceland actually prosecutes its corrupt bankers instead of coddling them; and, even Tunisia has good ideas around female health and family planning.
Of course, this is all presented through a selective, tendentious lens, but with an entertaining and humorous Moorean touch. To his credit, he does acknowledge that many of these benefits depend on high taxation, which is anathema to most Americans . Importantly, he acknowledges the dark histories of some of these countries. Moore skillfully contrasts contemporary German efforts to own up to historical crimes with America's perfunctory nod to its centuries-old injustices.
In a well-crafted flourish at the end of the film, Moore argues that many of the ideas behind these beneficial policies were American in origin, and that adopting them would be restoration rather than emulation.
One can agree with Moore's politics while being wary of his methods of persuasion. It's easy to imagine a right wing version of Moore using similar tactics to make a case for opposing views.
Nevertheless, Moore's work earns laughs and provokes discussion about important matters. It'll be interesting to see if Where to Invade Next will have any appreciable impact on the popular discourse surrounding the U.S. presidential election.