Interview | Michael Moore Reveals 3 Things You Won’t See In ‘Where to Invade Next’
Dog Eat Dog Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment.
It’s been 27 years since filmmaker Michael Moore burst onto the scene with ‘Roger and Me’, forever changing the landscape of documentary films. Moore has used his innate humor to tackle controversial issues over the years in films such as Fahrenheit 9/11, Capitalism: A Love Story, the Oscar-nominated Sicko, and the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine.
His latest film, Where to Invade Next, debuts on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD May 10 from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The critically acclaimed film, which received a 77% rating from reviewers and a 76% score from theater-goers on RottenTomatoes.com, explores how America’s past has made countries around the world better places. Moore travels from Iceland (where bankers are jailed for corruption) to Italy (where employees get 30 days paid vacation) to Slovenia (where college tuition is free for everyone, including foreigners) to Norway (where prisoners are treated with compassion) to explore how other countries are operating successfully with some of the very “hot button” issues that American politicians continue to argue about here.
Moore’s latest work is infused with humor, to help offset the many countries and issues covered in this globe-trotting doc. Love him or hate him, Where to Invade Next is an entertaining and enlightening look at how the world has taken some of America’s greatest ideas and made them work. During this tumultuous political season, which remains filled with negativity, it’s worth taking a look at some of the ways the world outside of the United States is operating.
Moore talks about the making of his latest movie and explains why he was able to film around the world under the radar of American media, in this exclusive interview, which also reveals three countries that ended up on the cutting room floor.
CraveOnline: How did you go about choosing which countries to visit in making this documentary?
Michael Moore: It was pretty random. Some of the things I’ve been thinking about for some time. Others it was just let’s go to the country and see what we find. I had a pretty good feeling it was either just a matter of throwing a dart at the map and we were going to find a better healthcare system just about anywhere. We were even considering a couple of African countries to show how they have universal health care. Of course, they don’t have the MRI machines and all the stuff we have, but with what resources they have, they’ve made it a priority that 100% of the people are covered. Nobody ever pulls out a wallet or a purse to pay for anything. We knew if we just plopped ourselves somewhere in any of these countries we would find things. For instance, you wouldn’t normally think in France we’d be going to an elementary school lunchroom.
Where they actually eat healthy food and drink water.
But then it made the movie more interesting because you don’t expect that. That elementary school was just a pretty random place in the middle of Normandy, which is how I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to like go to Paris, where you might think, “Of course the lunches are good in Paris.” Let’s go out to rural Normandy, where I was surprised to find that a third or more of the schools are either black or Arabic.
I read that you were in stealth mode when filming this doc. How challenging is it for you to go unnoticed, even with a small crew?
It’s impossible to not be noticed. The international box office for my films is often matched or is higher than it is in the U.S. So if you’re asking that in just terms of average people on the street recognizing me, yeah, it’s difficult. If you’re asking me in terms of the press or media, we found something that we didn’t understand at first. We did not want this to be in the press. We didn’t want it to be back here. We didn’t want anybody to know what we were doing, but it became clear after the first couple of countries where somebody might spot us and there would be a local story on the Slovenian news, or in Bologna in Italy. But then we’re like, “Oh shoot, this is all going to be back over in the U.S.” And it wasn’t. And we thought, “Why is that?” And of course, it’s because our media sucks…On a number of levels. And I don’t mean the quality.
The media wasn’t ever really supposed to make a huge profit, so when large corporations took over our media and consolidated it to what is essentially six companies owning most of what controls our news and information, they started closing foreign bureaus. I don’t know what the number is today, but I doubt that the networks have more than three or four foreign bureaus around the world. When I was growing up, networks like NBC or CBS would have a London Bureau, a Paris Bureau, a Brussels Bureau, a Rome Bureau. There would literally be somebody from each of the networks, from each of the news agencies, from each of the major papers — not just the New York Times, but the Chicago Tribune would have people there. The California and Sacramento Bees would have somebody out there.
And it became clear to us that there’s nobody out there in the world really, and that we could float around pretty easily without any American media knowing. And if there was an American, let’s say there happened to be some press person in Slovenia that night and we were the top story on the news. He calls back home to The Washington Post and says, “There’s something’s going on. Michael Moore was the top story on the national news here tonight. I need to hire a translator here in Slovenia to translate this from Slovenian into English.” And his editor asks, “How much is that?” He says, “I can probably find somebody for five bucks an hour.” And the editor says, “Oh, fuck it. We don’t have that in the budget.” So this is basically the way that our media exists now.
And it made it very easy for me to prance all around, not in disguise, but just out there doing my thing, and even if the local TV or media did something on me, it still wouldn’t be noticed here. It was such a great, sad education in the state of our media, and how it literally knows nothing about the rest of the world and doesn’t have the manpower to go and cover the rest of the world as it should be doing. Thus, the Internet. That is where if you do want to learn and do want to find out what’s going on. That’s where you go now.
In any film, there are things that end up being left on the cutting room floor. What’s something you found interesting but didn’t have room for in this final version of the film?
Three countries are on that floor. One is Canada. We went there to show how they vote. Their whole campaign election season lasts no longer than eight weeks. They vote with a pencil on a piece of paper and it’s all very transparent. The ballots are counted in the gymnasium on some big tables. And each of the parties — they have five parties, by the way, because they think in a country of 3 or 4 million people, two parties can’t really represent the broad spectrum of political thought that people would have — and there’s a representative from each party and they watch them count the ballots as they stack them up on the table and everybody can see who’s ahead and who wins. And they do this in three hours. By 11:00 p.m. even though they’re the second largest land mass in the world next to Russia, they’ve got to get these ballots in by dog sled. They bring them in on the backs of baby seals. They get this whole damn thing counted. They never have a problem, they never have any disputes. They use a No. 2 pencil.
Estonia was the second country. We went there because they have the lowest maternal mortality rate. In other words, the least number of mothers giving birth die during childbirth in Estonia. And in a place like Cleveland, you’ve got a three times greater chance of dying in childbirth than you do in the former Soviet Republic of Estonia. I wanted to see why that was.
And the third country was Austria. About a half a dozen countries now have lowered the voting age to 16, and it seems like a really good idea. They find then that the 18- to 30-year-olds have a higher percentage to turn out to vote than they do in our country because they get them voting while they’re in high school. And they bring candidates in and they make it a whole big deal. They get them registered right in high school, so when they’re 18, 19, and 20, there’s a better chance of them voting. Countries that are doing this have had great success with it.
Those are the three that didn’t make it into the film, but maybe someday.