WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? Directed by Morgan Spurlock, written by Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick. An Alliance Atlantis release. 93 minutes. Opens Friday (May 16). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNNN
You can tell Morgan Spurlock is worried about how people are going to react to his new documentary.
For starters, he’s defending the ridiculous trailer. It’s filled with visual jokes made at the expense of the cultures Spurlock explores, and plays as if the film it’s selling is a comical adventure series featuring Spurlock on camelback. In fact, he only briefly rides one of those ships of the desert.
“We wanted to play it up for humour, push it toward funny and get people into the theatres,” he says animatedly while sitting in a Hyatt Hotel room. He’s got more than a touch of charisma going for him, with his red hair ablaze and his handlebar moustache creeping down to the bottom of his chin.
“So many docs that deal with important issues have done poorly over the last year. People don’t want to think they’re being given a message and being fed spinach. Comedy works well with subjects like this. It gets people to let their guard down. You’re not hitting them with a shovel.”
Though his new movie has some critical content related to the United States’ superiority complex, Spurlock still has a hard-?on for the homeland.
“I love America,” he pronounces loudly, as if he’s hoping some of those who question his passion for his country are in the room.
“It’s true, I do love my country. I’m proud of America. I’m not proud of its actions, but I’m proud of what the country stands for and what it means. As Mark Twain said, ‘Support your country always and your government when it deserves it.’”
Spurlock’s is a weird stance that gets adopted by many liberal Americans who see small problems inside the U.S. but can’t see things on a systemic level. Stop?Loss director Kimberly Peirce, for example, couldn’t imagine the army silencing her for expressing hostility toward U.S. military policy.
And Spurlock makes no link between American gun culture and its aggressive foreign policies. A key sequence, shot when the film crew was embedded with the troops, records an excursion to fire big guns into the mountains in Afghanistan. Blasting away, Spurlock looks into the camera with a happy grin.
“We went over to the firing range to test-?drive some weapons. We were there shooting all types of guns, and when we went out to a lookout, an Afghan guy gave me an RPG.
“I grew up in West Virginia around guns in a pro-?guns family. I grew up a hunter. To get to fire an RPG was pretty incredible.”Yeah, maybe that’s why so many GIs are so trigger-?happy around Iraqi civilians.
“There’s a difference between ‘I’m gonna get to shoot this into the side of a mountain’ and ‘I’m gonna shoot at a car full of people.’ There’s a different kind of rush when you’re doing it without consequences. When you’ve got a rocket launcher on your shoulder, there’s so much adrenalin going through your body – it’s very invigorating. “I’m pro-?gun. I have no problem saying that. People need to have a better look into the backgrounds of gun owners. The problem isn’t the excitement of having a gun.“Video games are more of a factor – they’re used to train.”This discussion could go on for much longer, but I need to get a sense of how Spurlock sees the future of documentaries. They’ve received a major boost here but can’t get much traction in the U.S.
“Last year there were three docs that made a million dollars. One of them was Michael Moore’s Sicko, but you can’t even call him a documentary filmmaker – he’s more of a movie star and hasn’t grossed less than $120 million for any of his recent films.
“There’s so much competition in the multiplex. Why not give up that fifth Harry Potter screen that’s making $459 and give it to a documentary or an art house film?
“I’m a big believer in the idea that we buy what we’re sold. We’re not sold the idea that documentaries are valuable. Look at the BBC or the CBC: they give docs a prime-time slot. Look at the U.S.: there are no documentaries in prime time.”
Morgan Spurlock's WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? reviewed here.