CINEMA: American Unexceptionalism

Prepare TO Be Liberated


WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (2015, directed by Michael Moore, 119 minutes, U.S.)

Buskirk AvatarBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Screened for critics back in December, Michael Moore’s latest documentary Who To Invade Next, has dramatically changed context in recent weeks.  In December, Moore’s first film in six years seemed like another potent film essay critical of American politics.  Today, the film plays like an impassioned plea for the Presidential candidate who has made the issues discussed within a centerpiece of his campaign, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Despite the title, the film’s subject is not our military policy, it is is our country’s meager program of social services, consistently under the budget cutters’ knife since the Reagan revolution.  Back in the ’80s it began with cutting society’s safety nets; welfare, social security, and unemployment.  Forty years later U.S. citizens are finding out they don’t deserve libraries, public schools or safe drinking water.

“People think they should get education and health care for free!” the Conservative cry goes, yet across Europe citizens believe that these are the things that their taxes should supply.  Throughout the film the well-upholstered Mr. Moore travels to Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Iceland and beyond to examine social services that seem luxurious in comparison to their U.S. counterparts.

French schoolchildren eat what looks like nutritious fine restaurant fare, Italian have a month off in summer and maintain productivity, Norwegians have lockless, humane jails with low recidivism and the humble little nation of Slovenia, where college is free and they even enroll U.S. and other foreign students free of charge.  The extent of these programs may seem shocking to U.S. eyes but Moore makes the point that so many of these programs were based on U.S. programs that have withered and died in recent decades.

Moore’s humor is still intact and his montages of the madness of American life reverberate with the darkest shade of black humor.   Yet the final effect of Who to Invade Next is one of terrible sadness about a country that doesn’t comprehend that the success or failure of its citizens is the true State of the Nation.