de facto film reviews 3.5 stars

Where to Invade Next? (2015, USA, d. Michael Moore, 119 Minutes)

by Robert Joseph Butler

The greatness with Michael Moore is that each of his recent films like Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story, and now Where to Invade Next? do not just examine the issues and problems that face our nation  today, but he actually gives us simple solutions that also seem so far beyond the US Governments reach. His latest documentary, the greatly informative Where to Invade Next remains his most optimistic and policy driven film to date. He uses the same satirical methods where he addresses the problem, except this time he has more solutions for his reforms. The patriotic polemicist, author, pundit, and filmmaker has a bold reverence for  advocating for effective policies and  reforms from other nations (That are actually originally American ides, in which many government officials and even CEO’s that he has exchanges with inform him that they are actually American ideas that are based off our own US Constitution) into solving the severe problems our nation faces today.

As he did with Sicko, he goes on a travelogue to other European countries to compare how they have greater improved systems than we do. He explores such issues as incarceration, school lunches, healthcare, the drug war, finance, vacation policy, cultural remembrance, and education.  Moore explore how these nations have slightly higher taxes than we do, but the nations get more in return for a democratic government that represents the people over corporate interests that still remains a huge problem with the US government today. I love many of Moore’s policies, and personally replace the income tax with more of a sales tax, cut much of the un-needed and bad government waste, and replace  it with better government discretionary spending than what we get now. Even under the leadership of progressive-leaning President Barack Obama, sadly much of the same policies have remained in tact.

It is a fact that President Obama along with a GOP/Tea Party controlled US Congress along with establishment Democrats continue to favor more of the  status quo over the interests of the people that involves corporate bailouts, corporate welfare, more military interventions, drone strikes, mass incarceration, Patriot Act extension, increased military spending, mass surveillance, inhumane mass deportations, while very few statesman seem to challenge these actions. Sadly, President Obama has even made it easier to go after after whistle-blowers as he grew the NSA. The two-party system has certainly failed us, and hopefully the Libertarian or Green Party can be part of the discourse and become part of our democratic process that often leads 100 million people into not voting out of apathy and despotism.

It just proves that the corporatist machine in D.C. continues to profit off human misery as we are always promised more hope and change, and we just get more of the same. I fear whoever the next President will be (Trump, Cruz, , Hillary?) will only grow these Un-Democratic powers and possibly divide our nation into more despotism unless we unite together for the cause of freedom, liberty, and democracy that can actually bring people and society together. It’s not to say progress hasn’t been made under President Obama, he is the first President to actually visit prisons, and is open to being diplomatic with Cuba as he favors possibly opening up the embargo with Cuba. Marriage equality was passed by the Supreme Court back in 2012, yet much of the status quo remains the same, and will sadly remain the same unless we bring more change and reforms.  Moore digs deeply in how we can fix the broken system as he picks “the flowers instead of the weeds” in how we can have an improved society.

Michael Moore’s heart has always been in the right spot, he was raised a Catholic, and he believes in the Christian and Catholic doctrine in healing injustices from oppression, and healing humanity into a better society. He doesn’t by any means hate America as some of the detractors on the right claim. He wants to improve America where every American has opportunity as our middle-class continues to shrink from a failed 2 party system that consists of wasteful government spending, endless wars, major tax cuts for the wealthy that lead to inflation as it results in deficit spending and a shrinking middle-class. Moore has always been a very passionate and honest filmmaker who explores these topics before they become part of the national discussion. In one pivotal  moment in the film as he travels to Italy, he points out how there are no law requirements in the United Sates of companies giving workers vacation– to score two weeks is “lucky”, and four weeks is just unheard of. This is very true as we already know, sure many companies do indeed offer vacations to their full time employees, but there is a grace period as many part-time workers do not receive vacation pay.  Moore points out how the Italians have greater profits, increased productivity, and even a much higher mortality rate than the Americans.

One of the highlights in the film is how he expertly explores how Germany learns from their past sins with remembrance culture.  As race relations, police brutality, and racial tension continue to worsen in this nation as we see an increase of more Confederate sympathy than ever before, how can we prevent this type of thing from occurring ever again or getting worse? Moore profoundly examines how the United States needs more remembrance culture of our past sins. When Moore visits Germany for instance, in their classrooms the students are taught about the brutality of the Fascist ideology of Nazis. They welcome Holacust surviviors as they discussed how their basic human rights were supressed. During this time labor rights were undermined, and millions of Jewish  people were incarceration and sadly this resulted is mass genocide of millions of Jewish people. Germany now has remembrance culture where even on the streets where citizens walk and reside, they are constantly reminded about the horrors of Nazi Germany. They are taught about the principles of why we should always ask the existential question of “why remember?” Moore explains how we should always learn and acknowledge what our predecessors did. The students in the German schools in Germany are taught history where it’s not white-washed. They don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Moore points out how they don’t say things like “Hey, that was before my time. I had nothing to do with that. What’s that have to do with me? I didn’t kill anybody.”Where to Invade Next": Michael Moore's Most Subversive Film

Like our nation, Germany is a great nation with many great people, but as a society they treat their past sins as a permanent mark that they always seek redemption for and never forget. Outside of German homes in towns and cities, on the sidewalks there are engravings of the names of the Jewish families that used to live in their homes, but were taken away and killed. This allows the Germans to know how the Jewish people were persecuted and oppressed under the Third Reich. Moore ponders the question “What would our signs look like if we did this in America?” What would our classes teach? What if from now on during police academy training classes police cadets and officers viewing training videos on tolerance as they watch the awful videos of Eric Gardener to prevent these tragedies from occurring again? As Confederate Flags and statues seem to be more treasured in today’s society than remembrance of slaves, abolitionists, civil rights leaders, Native Americans, and even Union Generals, it makes you ponder just how cache and hidden racism really is in America.

Moore asks “Why do we hide from our sins?” It’s a profound statement in the film in how we need to start telling the truth. Moore points out how the United States never had a museum of slavery until last year. Moore poetically states “The first step of recovery, the first step of being a better person or a better nation, we must stand up and honestly realize who and what we are.” It’s an essential point in how we should never forget our history, so we never repeat it. If there is one thing we can learn from our dark side and make amends for it we can free ourselves and be a better people so we can do well by others. Moore states “If they can do it, so can we.” Sadly, Germany has had an increase of antisemitism and xenophobia in the last few years, due mostly to the citizens listening to far-right extremists like Alex Jones and Joseph Paul Watson, which is sadly occurring right now in our nation as we have tragically seen an increase in racism, hate crimes, and even domestic terrorism (Dylan Roof, the burning of Black Churches, abortion clinic shootings) by right-wing extremists in the last 7 years due to fears of diversity, immigration, and other social changes.

It’s not to say hate doesn’t exist in Europe beasue it does. Moore in a beautiful interview of the father to a victim one of the teenagers who were murdered in the mass killing spree in Norway in 2011, Moore asks the father if he wants to kill the murderer of his slain son, and the father responds “No I do not.” his response is an uncommon one because he doesn’t want to raise to his level. Moore also points out how Norway doesn’t resort to fear or draft up legislation that strip away people’s civil liberties in the name of security with Patriot Act like legislation after 9/11. A controversial and government overreaching piece of legislation that the  GOP and Democrats unanimously agreed on under Bush/Cheney upon the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Where to Invade Next? is just as essential passionate as Moore”s other films, and the patriotism remains. Moore’s policies are very humane that truly practice Christianity as he visits prisons in Norway and examines just how much more humane and peaceful it is. The warden of the prison explains “We don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment,” and informs Moore that Norway was influenced by our own US Constitution. The moments in Norway’s prisons feels otherworldly and almost Utopian as Moore points out that the  prisoners in Norway receive greater rehabilitation instead of revenge, in return they are transcended as better people who do not return to prison.  Moore’s latest addition ranks with Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Roger and Me as it remains another triumphant and memorable documentary, in which continues Moore’s critical thinking methods all in hopes of changing hearts and minds for the better. Hopefully teachers show this wonderful documentary in their civic classes so we can have a more just and peaceful world.