Michael Moore’s New Movie Tells Americans: Pack Your Bags for Europe
A documentary based on the benefits of invading other countries sounds like an unlikely premise for Michael Moore, the controversial filmmaker and antiwar activist who slammed the U.S. invasion of Iraq a decade ago in Fahrenheit 9/11. But his latest movie, Where to Invade Next, relies on the concept of a metaphorical, not a physical, attack.
Moore, parading as a one-man army representing the United States, goes on a quest to gather the most effective ideas and policies from nations around the world. From the factories of Italy to the public schools of Finland and the prisons of Norway, Moore uses his so-called invasions to show how America might learn from the success and efficiency of others. After each visit with business leaders, law enforcement officers, and politicians, the Oscar-winning auteur plants the American flag on foreign soil and declares liberation.
Where to Invade Next—which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 23 and nationwide on Feb. 12—makes the case for reforms in labor, education, food, health, and criminal justice. By Moore's own rendering, here are some of the countries and the policies that will have American viewers ready to move abroad.
If there's one takeaway from Where to Invade Next, it's that Italians know how to take a vacation. In one of the first scenes of the movie, Moore spends some time with an Italian couple who share their beachside photos and travel stories from the dozen or so places they've visited around the globe—all on their employers' dime. Italy, along with the other 27 members of the European Union, is required by law to offer all employees a minimum of four weeks—20 days per year—of paid vacation. On top of that, Italy gives its workers an additional 10 days off for public holidays, and in some regions, bonus days are added for observing the festival of their local patron saint. But Italy's paid leave isn't even Europe's most generous. Residents of France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, and Finland enjoy between 25 and 30 days of paid vacation, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
While "invading" Norway, Moore visits an idyllic island town where men lay out in the sun, go running through the park, and live in cabins reminiscent of summer camp. But what appears at first to be a recreational retreat is actually a prison. There are no bars, metal toilets, or solitary confinement. Even in the country's maximum-security facilities, inmates participate in painting classes, perform music in a recording studio, and view works from contemporary artists. The system appears to be working: Norway's two-year recidivism rate is about 20 percent—one of the lowest in the world—according to a survey of inmates released in 2005. The country also boasts a relatively low level of crime and an incarceration rate of just 75 for every 100,000 people, as of last year.