Michael Moore has wanted to bring his latest documentary film, “Where To Invade Next” to life since he was a teenager.
“I was 19 years old when I got a youth hostel card, a Eurorail pass and a backpack. I spent two months travelling through Europe and I couldn’t believe how they were living. I just kept thinking, ‘how come we don’t do this’ -- and I’ve been asking that question since I was a teenager,” Michael Moore told The Huffington Post Australia.
The Academy Award-winning director sets out to answer exactly that in his latest work, which sees him play the role of “invader” as he visits a dozen countries in 35 days including Italy, France, Germany and Norway to commandeer policies and ideas that could improve America.
In classic Moore style we’re confronted with the myth of the “American Dream” and the challenges the country faces from its justice, education and prison systems, right through to its culture of overwork and fraught healthcare system.
As Moore “invades” each country he discovers fairly simple solutions to the problems that exist.
From a couple he meets in Italy who tell him about their legal entitlement to 15 days “honeymoon” leave (yep, this is a thing) to the pre-schoolers in France who get a gourmet meal cooked for them every day, Moore attempts to show how each country’s residents and economic system reaps the benefits.
Moore said it was pure coincidence that the film’s release fell right before the U.S. election but hopes it begs the simple question from the American people of “What happened to us?”
“I know that my fellow Americans are good people and they have a heart and a conscience. They are not crazy, but they are ignorant. And I’ve noticed that once we are not stupid, once we are educated and know things, we do the right thing,” Moore said.
As well as many humorous observations and discoveries, there are some truly heart-wrenching moments.
In Norway, Moore speaks to a father who lost his 17-year-old son in the 2011 mass shooting.
In Iceland, Moore speaks to three female CEOs who tell him bluntly that the last thing they’d want to do is be his neighbour in the United States.
The French children unimpressed as they are shown what American students get for lunch.
“You see [in the film] that I kind of choke up because she meant it. She said, ‘I don’t want to be your neighbour -- I don’t want to live on your street because I know you, as an American you don’t have my best interest at heart. Your best interests are about me, myself and I.’
“Of course, I know the truth of that and the fact that somebody living on a volcanic rock island knows that about us -- it’s embarrassing and humiliating because I know we’re better than that. I’m saddened that we gave up on ourselves,” Moore said.
Moore revealed one of the most touching moments for him personally didn’t actually make the final edit.
“We were in Estonia, a place that has one of the lowest mortality rates for mothers during childbirth in the world. A doctor was giving us a tour of the hospital and I noticed a framed photo of a young Hillary Clinton with this same doctor.
“The doctor told me that it was taken 25 years ago. ‘She came here to study our healthcare system when she was putting together her healthcare plan.’ I remember just welling up because 49, 000 Americans have died each year because they didn’t have health insurance. So many Americans have died because nobody listened to Hillary back in the 90s when she proposed a universal healthcare system,” Moore said.
It’s moments like these, Moore said, that drive him to continue making movies.
So what does he hope Australian viewers take from the film?
“Take a look at the United States, and when your politicians try to emulate policies and practices like ours, think twice about that. Protect the good things that you have,” Moore said.
As for his homeland, Moore is confident things will get better.
“They just did a poll that asked young adults whether they preferred socialism or capitalism, and socialism came out on top. A big change is happening right now. That’s why Trump and the angry white guys are so upset,” Moore said.
Where To Invade Next is in cinemas April 7.