Video review: Where To Invade Next

After the 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis, bankers were actually prosecuted.

The movie Where To Invade Next appeared briefly in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles at the end of 2015, but was booked for general release in February 2016. Unfortunately, Michael Moore, the writer/director/star, caught pneumonia around that time, forcing him to cancel activities to promote the film.

Then in May 2016, he emailed MoveOn members, offering them a copy of the video for a donation to the organization, and “tens of thousands… responded.” I was one of them.

The premise of the film is that Moore would “invade” particular countries, and “steal” their best ideas. In Italy, for instance, he interviewed well-paid workers with guaranteed vacation and paid parental leave.

France had delicious-looking school meals and frank sex education. Finland’s education policy, according to the Minister of Education, involved almost no homework and no standardized testing. In Slovenia, the President note that students, including those from other countries, can get a tuition-free, and therefore debt-free higher education.

The Germans have labor rights and a work–life balance, while engaging in an honest national history education about its past, especially regarding the Nazis. Portugal has a rational drug policy and has abolished the death penalty. Norway’s humane prison system applies even to the maximum-security facilities.

Tunisia touts women’s rights, including reproductive health, and women were very important in the drafting of a new constitution in 2014. In Iceland, where women have been in power, the world’s first democratically elected female president came about after a general strike by women.

Of course, the kicker is, in each of these cases, the countries had originally “stolen” the ideas from the United States. For instance, after the 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis, bankers were actually prosecuted. This came directly from the playbook of the United States after the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, and in stark contrast with how the US dealt with its subsequent fiscal disaster.

I’ve seen several of Michael Moore’s documentaries. Where To Invade Next is more fun, and far less preachy, than some of his recent films, as he shows what other countries’ choices look like compared with the American dream that seems so difficult to achieve. Yet it doesn’t paint those other countries as total utopias.

Certainly, some will find his examples superficial – I find them even more compelling as the movie progresses – but given the way many Americans know so little about the world outside their borders, this would probably be helpful primer. Not incidentally, there’s a bit about tearing down the Berlin Wall. People from all political stripes may find the film intriguing, a source of conversation even more relevant in light of recent political events in the United States.

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