When Michael Moore’s secretly made documentary project, Where to Invade Next, was first announced as part of the lineup for the Toronto International Film Festival, the news came with descriptions of the film being about America’s war addiction. Now, the film has had debuted at the festival, and a teaser has just been released (watch it below). Both the clip and early reviews suggest the initial angle was a matter of selective marketing.
Because, as the trailer and early reviews reveal, the film is actually a summary of America’s manifold forms of backwardness compared with the far more advanced and humanitarian approaches of some other foreign governments. (Perhaps marketing the film as the documentary equivalent of a well-made political listicle didn’t sound like the best idea.) The title, which early descriptions hinted was about America’s insatiability for invasion, actually refers to Michael Moore invading other countries in order to, as the documentarian/entertainer says, “steal [their] great ideas.”
Initially, what had led the media to assume the film was about war was Moore’s comment that, “The issue of the United States in infinite war is something that has concerned me for quite some time, and provides the necessary satire for this film.” And indeed, the film’s comic framework seems to come from that notion — despite it using that framework to explore entirely different issues. Before the premiere, Moore had cryptically said that the film “is not what you think it is.”
Variety says that though it may be “drive-by tourism on a highly selective, flattering and downright gluttonous scale,” it’s an “impishly entertaining, career-summarizing polemic bent on demonstrating… how other countries around the world… are putting US progress to shame.”
Apparently, it traverses issues such as the prison system, workers’ rights, women’s rights, police brutality and institutional racism, societal attitudes about sex, and schooling. Yet its point allegedly isn’t just to condemn America while ogling foreign governments — rather, Entertainment Weekly calls it an “optimistic look at policies other countries have gotten right and how America could adopt them in the future.” They note that at a Q&A, Moore referred to it as “Mike’s Happy Film.”
Watch the teaser: