Michael Moore is a powerful filmmaker.
After viewing a preview of his latest film — a scathing comparison of America to the rest of the world in areas like education, prisons, the workforce and women’s rights — followed by words from the filmmaker himself, a Westporter working on Wall Street said, “I feel like quitting my job tomorrow, and really doing something with my life.”
He probably won’t carry through with that pledge. But Moore certainly has made his mark.
An invitation-only audience last night at Bowtie Cinemas just over the Norwalk line was told before a screening of “Where To Invade Next“: “You may not agree with everything Michael Moore says. But left, right or center, you should listen to him.”
And listen they did. The film — which opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles for a limited, we’re-doing-this-to-qualify-for-the-Oscars run, then will be released nationally in February after the “Star Wars” hype dies down — is bound to stir controversy.
Moore travels around Europe (and Tunisia), interviewing everyone from an Italian couple with insane amounts of government-mandated vacation time and a French chef in charge of serving elegant food to elementary school students, to Norwegian prisoners (who have keys to their private rooms, and access to knives) and Portuguese police officers (who do not arrest anyone for drug possession).
Moore’s point is that many other countries work far better than ours. ( Example: The US and Papua New Guinea are the only 2 in the world without guaranteed maternity leave for new mothers.)
But — and this is a point he made in both the movie, and a Q-and-A with audience members afterward — every idea he presented originated in the US. From the outstanding Finnish education system (built on the American model) and Norway’s penal system (honoring our prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment”) to Iceland’s pioneering role of women in government and business (jump-started by our 1970s-era women’s lib movement), the rest of the world has followed our lead.
We’ve just lagged behind ourselves.
A Westporter asked Moore — who has made hard-hitting documentaries like “Fahrenheit 9/11” (about George W. Bush’s war on terror), “Bowling for Columbine” (gun control) and “Roger and Me” (globalization) –“What drives you?”
“I believe we’re better than what we are now,” he said. “We can do better. I love this country. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I think we can figure this out.”
“Where To Invade Next” will undoubtedly create controversy — perhaps more than any other Moore film. His comments to last night’s audience may not be heard nationwide, as theatergoers argue over what he’s included — and left out. But the power of film is enormous.
Mark Shapiro — an executive producer of the film, IMG’s chief content officer and a Westporter — arranged for the screening, and a reception with Moore afterward at Vespa restaurant.
On Sunday night, Shapiro was in Las Vegas — specifically, in the control booth as Steve Harvey completely screwed up the Miss Universe pageant.
Moore’s event, he acknowledged, was a lot more meaningful.
Particularly if that Wall Street guy I talked to follows through on his promise.