“I’m an optimist. I’m not a cynic. I don’t think it’s all fucked,” said Michael Moore Friday afternoon at the New York Film Festival’s press screening of his new documentary, “Where to Invade Next.”
“I feel like that sometimes. It doesn’t mean it’s the truth. I mean yesterday’s shooting in Oregon,” Moore bemoaned. “What DO we do about that?”
Kent Jones, the director of programming for the New York Film Festival, who moderated the Q&A, mentioned how powerful the president’s speech was in response to the killings at Umpqua Community College. Moore added that, “it was awesome” and said of the president: “He inches his way toward the place where he needs to go and I hope he goes there. He’s got a year left.”
When asked about the inspiration for the documentary, Moore said he traveled through Europe when he was 19 and broke his toe in Sweden. When he went to the hospital he was stunned when there was no bill. “Why don’t we do that?” he thought as he kept having positive experiences like that all through Europe.
In the doc Moore ambushes or invades people in France, Italy, Iceland, Norway and Tunisia and is floored to learn of policies in their country he’d like imported to the U.S. He’s floored – as I was – to learn that Italians get eight weeks paid vacation and five months paid maternity leave.
Norway doesn’t have the death penalty and stress rehabilitation over revenge. French school children, even in the poorest districts, are fed nourishing, gourmet meals and shun sodas; there are no vending machines in schools. When Moore placed a can of coke on the luncheon table the children cringed.
Moore said he heard that critics in Toronto where the film was first screened wrote, “The difference of this film from the other films is it’s not so angry. Mike’s happy!” Moore laughed, “I’m more angry than ever, but maybe I came up with a more subversive way to deal with that anger about conditions in this country.”
Moore admitted, “I’m really nervous today because you are the first American audience for this. No Americans have seen this unless they went to Toronto. That’s it. We didn’t do test screenings. We kept this very quiet,” he said. “I wasn’t even here for the screening today so I don’t know how people responded.”
Jones assured the director the reception to his documentary was positive. (Moore seemed relieved but he couldn’t have been surprised.)
A journalist with an American accent from the Guardian said that friends of his who saw the film in Toronto asked why Moore chose not to invade England.
“ Because the U.K. in recent years has started to look too much like us,” he said. “They changed their value system to believing in a system of inequality according to income and so I wanted to go to places where we could learn from, and I don’t think we have much to learn from the U.K. now. Sorry to say that – You’re an American anyway. Moore added, “They started to act like us think like us, look like us, so fast food is everywhere and their kids are now looking like our kids.”
Moore’s added a strong feminist message in the film that he said came about organically as he made the film. In invading Iceland he discovered three banks that were run by men failed and the officers were sentenced to prison for financial fraud. Women ran the bank that flourished.
“More women are elected in other democracies,” said Moore. “Women actually have this kind of power and it’s not just Iceland where 40 percent of the corporate boards have to be women. It’s the same in Norway – I think actually Norway started it – in Germany 30 percent of the corporate board has to be female. I noticed in these countries where women had real power, not the fake power that women have here, you know, where 20 percent of our congress are women.”
He added, “The majority gender, 52 percent of the population has 20 percent of the Senate and 20 percent of the House. The sad thing is for historians a 100 years from now is like we’ve left behind film and videotape showing ourselves being really happy that 20 women got elected as U.S. Senators,” he said. “It’s sort of a gender apartheid we have in this country.”
Moore noted that foreigners would say every country has a lot of problems and those are ignored in the doc. “I didn’t go there to make a film about your country,” Moore replied. “I went to pick the flowers and not the weeds.”
“My film is about us and not you. I decided to tell a story about America without shooting a single frame of the movie in the United States.”
A journalist asked if we could invade ourselves? What does American still do well?
“We still do rock and roll and music really well, hip hop, they’re still not very good. In France, you turn the radio on, it’s like they should just give up.” Moore added, “I like the choice of cereal here, massive choices.”
Other pluses over Europe: “We elected Obama over John McCain, that was a good idea, I think. I think that saved us a little. I don’t think most of these countries are going to elect someone of African descent as the head of their country.”
When someone expressed concern about the Republican candidates, Moore replied, “Don’t worry about them. They’re not going to win. Worry about the other side, if I can place myself on that side; we don’t show up. We’re the slacker side of politics and so our side didn’t show up for the congressional elections in the last election. That’s how the Republicans win.”
As to question about Trump, the director said he doesn’t have a shot at becoming president. “Seventy-nine percent of the people in the United States are either women, people of color, or people between the ages of 18 and 30, young people. Donald Trump has none of those blocks. He can’t win.”
He added of the Republican Congress, “To say that you have the right to regulate a woman’s uterus but not guns. I think the only safe place for guns would be in a woman’s uterus,” he laughed. “I hope that came out right, and there’s the 140 character take away from this press conference.”