Berlinale: Where to Invade Next

Where to Invade Next
Directed by Michael Moore

by Joanna Orland

More of a political comedy than a classic documentary, Michael Moore’s latest film Where to Invade Next takes a satirizing look at America and its shortcomings.  Setting aside audience expectations, this film does not focus on American military critique, but rather it’s a travelogue of sorts as Michael Moore visits select countries, “invading” them to steal their best ideas to take back to America.  He admittedly is there “to pick the flowers, not the weeds” as he overlooks countries’ flaws to focus on some of the inspiring social mandates from around the globe.

Moore’s first stop is Italy – a country whose population “always look like they just had sex”.  He reasons that their happy and relaxed attitudes are due to the country’s view on work as the basic holiday allowance for Italians is four weeks by law, plus additional holidays making a total closer to eight weeks of annual personal leisure time.  There is also five months of paid maternity leave, worker benefits including two hour lunches, and a generally happier and healthier, therefore more productive workforce.

From Italian work life, Moore moves on to France and examines school lunches where the canteen menu resembles something of a Michelin star restaurant.  Not only is this food healthier than its American counterpart, but it is also cheaper and teaches the children about food and healthy eating – Jamie Oliver would be reeling from this segment.  Moore then takes his educational exploration further by traveling to Finland, a country that has the highest student performance on a global scale.  It’s here that Moore learns how Finland recovered from its poor performance of decades ago by implementing a revolutionary educational system that eliminates homework and standardized tests to give the children much more free time to be children.

In Slovenia, Moore explores the idea of free college education, even for foreign American students who must travel abroad to be able to afford schooling.  Then onto Germany where the filmmaker examines the country’s existence of an actual middle-class and how it has managed to thrive.  It is in Germany where Moore makes his most poignant observation about how a country must acknowledge its past in order to overcome it.

Moore then travels to Norway to visit prisons in a system that believes in rehabilitation rather than punishment.  Then in Portugal Moore delves further into criminal justice as the country has legalized drugs which has resulted in less use.  Then there is female empowerment as Moore visits Tunisia to examine how women’s rights thrive in a Muslim country better than in America.

In Iceland, Moore explores how a financial company run by women was the only one to avoid a meltdown during the Icelandic economic crisis.  Iceland has also prosecuted the bankers responsible, a just solution which America has yet to implement in this recent downturn – Although the way that Icelandic officials prosecuted their bankers was modeled on America’s prosecution in the S&L crisis of the 80’s and 90’s.  Where did America lose its way is the question Moore is asking as it is revealed that many of these European ideas originated in America.

A thought-provoking, inspirational and often hilarious film, Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next is potentially the filmmaker’s best work to date.  If not his best, certainly his funniest.


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