Where To Invade Next: Review / by Kenneth Buff

Where To Invade Next is Michael Moore's latest documentary. It's been described as a travel log, using the framing device of "Invading countries" to take their good ideas and bring them back home. I can see that argument, but I think that description dismisses the real power that this film has in pointing out some of our sadder policies and national mindsets.

Michael Moore films usually make me angry. Bowling for Columbine made me mad at the gun industry (NRA), Sicko did the same for the health care industry. Those films pointed out the corruption in both said industries, and showed how those issues are better managed in other countries. This film, it really just made me sad. Watching a father in Norway—whose son was killed in a mass murder—express how he doesn't want to kill the man who murdered his son, and how he doesn't want the man to be murdered, because that would "make him go down the ladder" (we would word it, "I don't want to go down to his level."). He also said, "I don't want to pretend that I have the right that he thought he had, to murder someone." We then see what a Norwegian prison looks like. Prisoners are free to roam the prison, which is an island with dirt roads you can wonder on with a bicycle, trees cover the island, no fences, no uniforms, no armed guards. You get a personal bathroom (with a key to the room), a television, access to a 21 century library, and classes are offered. When Moore asks what the hell's going on to a guard he explains: "Really, we're just taking away their freedom. They miss their family. They miss their friends." This scene is then juxtaposed with a montage of black American men being stripped naked, beaten; black women being beaten and chewed by German shepherds. It doesn't make you angry, just sad. Maybe a little ashamed. (The film also states the statistcs of re-offenders in Norway and the US. They are: 27 percent for Norway and 82 percent for the US. )

I've read the arguments that Moore's documentary cherry picks facts, that it's not fair to compare these countries because they're so much smaller than the US, but I think those arguments are missing the point. A man in charge of drug control in Portugal (a country where all drugs have been decriminalized) states that you can't just take back an idea to the US and drop if off there and expect it to work, because that will fail, "you'll have to take back some of our other good ideas too," he says, "like universal health care." Portugal's philosophy on drugs is to treat the users, not to punish them. Without universal healthcare that would not be possible to implement. So, the point Moore's newest film is making, is not simply that we need to adopt all of these things verbatim, but that we can do better than we currently are. We can adopt the ideas, and make them our own. Many of these ideas the people Moore spoke with stated that they got them from us. Portugal's unique prison system was credited to us by a man, stating, "It was you who said 'no cruel and unusual punishment.' It's in your constitution." These aren't radical ideas, they're things we should already be doing (respecting human life, focusing on serving the students in schools not on budgets and tests, fighting for worker rights and the rights of women) and it's just sad that we're not even aware of half the indecent things we do as a nation because we rarely stop to think about them.

Great film. Go see it.