To discover what the USA can learn from other nations, Michael Moore playfully “invades” them to see what they have to offer. Newly released to Stan, digital editor Dan Jensen takes a look at what lessons we Australians might be able to learn, too.
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT is a 2015 documentary written, produced and directed by Michael Moore. But despite six years passing since its release, the film is every bit as relevant and significant today.
Created in the style of a travelogue, Moore visits several countries, mostly in Europe, to explore their progressive political, economic and educational systems. These are compared to America and used to show its failures, but the comparison can be held against any country where leaders put profit above the wellbeing of its citizens. Moore acts as if he’s invading each country in order to take home various ideals to improve the USA.
The film starts with a trip to Italy where Moore interviews workers and CEOs, discussing employee entitlements and how positive attitudes lead to increased productivity. And it’s nothing short of mind-blowing hearing about the amount of paid leave and benefits the Italian workforce receives. Next, we visit France to look at nutrition in the school meal system and also sex education. When French students are shown photos of what American kids are given to eat compared to their five-star meals, all are left in complete disbelief.
Following this, the film starts delving into deeper subjects such as the relaxed prison system in Norway, the decriminalisation of drug use in Portugal and free tertiary education in Slovenia. Towards the end of the film, it puts the spotlight on how countries such as Tunisia and Iceland have been leading the way in women’s rights and spends much of the last half hour emphasising the importance of equality in shaping a better world.
As with much of Moore’s previous work (including Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11), Where To Invade Next is crafted in a way that is educational, eye-opening, entertaining and sometimes shocking. After the segment on the Norwegian penal system, scenes of prisoners locking their own cell doors with the keys they’re entitled to are juxtaposed with footage from American prisons of inmates being savagely beaten and physically violated. There isn’t a lot of violence in the film, but when it’s present, it makes a point.
Where To Invade Next is brilliantly written and edited, never dwelling too much on any one country. The two-hour run time flies past as the viewer is treated to a fascinating glimpse at how neoliberalism and capitalism can corrode a country into one that forsakes the welfare and happiness of its people. But one of the most fascinating parts of all this is that many of the systems adopted by these more prosperous nations were initially devised in America.
As Moore says near the film’s conclusion:
“I began to lament that the American dream seemed to be alive everywhere but America.”
While Australia still has a lot of work ahead in terms of self-improvement, there were moments in the film to remind us how lucky we are. For instance, the looks on the faces of an Italian couple upon discovering that Americans aren’t entitled to any paid leave through the working year was of utter surprise and disgust.
But these moments were few and far between. Yes, the comparisons were aimed at the USA, but they also served as a reminder that we’re a country with crippling student debt, a systemised educational system that whitewashes its own history, brutality within the prison system and a long way to go in achieving gender equality.
Michael Moore is famous for his left-wing views and sometimes receives criticism for being biased. But when we see first-hand how much better the Finnish education system works through interviews with students and teachers, it’s difficult to argue that their system isn’t effective. Also, one might oppose the freedom given to Norway’s prisoners, but then it’s important to take into account that the country has one of the lowest murder rates in the world.
It all boils down to how a nation treats its people and Where To Invade Next provides a lot of food for thought on how to make the world a better place, especially when considering that other countries have more to steal than oil.
Where To Invade Next is now streaming on Stan.
You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.
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