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Watch: Michael Moore on Entertaining Audiences and ‘Where to Invade Next’

Watch: Michael Moore on Entertaining Audiences and 'Where to Invade Next'

At Moore’s behest, the film’s new, still-unnamed distributor, founded by exiting TWC-Radius partners Tom Quinn and Jason Janego and thriving Alamo Drafthouse exhibitor and arthouse distributor Tim League, pushed the film’s wider release to the heart of the presidential primary season. (Though shortlisted, the film did not make the final Oscar five after qualifying engagements in New York and L.A. in December.)

Now, the filmmaker’s hugely entertaining agitprop doc “Where to Invade Next,” his first in five years, will be preceded by a 50-state bus tour, with Moore in the role of campaigning politician—in this case, by echoing the film’s cheeky, provocative case for the U.S. to adopt various European social programs. 

READ MORE: “Oscar Documentary Shortlist of 15 Revealed”

“We hope to remind Americans they have the inalienable right to laugh, especially in an election year,” the distributors said upon picking up the film, shortly before it screened at the New York Film Festival. “We’re thrilled about our new label and can’t think of a better film or filmmaker to launch with.”

If anyone can figure out the constantly evolving theatrical/VOD distribution landscape with multichannel platforms, it’s these guys, and “Where to Invade Next” is a high-profile movie with which to make a splash. I spoke to Moore in depth in Toronto for a TIFF Talk. Check out the highlight videos below.

At the rousing first TIFF showing of “Where to Invade Next,” I was struck by the rapport Moore had with the Canadian audience, who he’s been relating to since “Roger & Me.” He’s been comparing Canada favorably to the U.S. for a long time (less violent, fewer guns, better health care etc.). Some of those comparisons clearly inspired the new doc, which starkly contrasts several countries and cultures to ours, from education and school lunches to vacations. Moore has been interested in making these comparisons since he was a kid traveling with a EuRail Pass. 
Moore and his research team went on a search for things they didn’t know about, he told me: “Did you know that third graders’ lunch is lamb stew with couscous? Or beef and faun stew?’ I’d never heard of this stuff, and I thought I knew a lot of these things. That was really the criteria.”  

Once they traveled to their far-flung locations, Moore instructed his team to shoot everything, even when he said not to. “There are some things I really wanted to say, and I know that, sometimes, I create discomfort — but I think out of discomfort comes incredible things. I mean, if it weren’t for the women’s movement in the ‘70s that essentially made men uncomfortable, we wouldn’t be halfway down some tracks — or a third of the way down some tracks, or, in Hollywood’s case, 1.9% of the way down the track.”

Women’s issues are front and center. Moore was struck by how many countries structured equality for women: “But the real effect is, if women are at the table, things are just going to get better. What kind of guy are you where you wouldn’t want women at the table? What guy would deny that things get better when women are at the table? Right? The room kind of picks up a little. We can still have our ‘guy time,’ but, in general, it’s a good idea. And then we get all slap-happy in the United States. We’ve got 20 U.S. Senators now that are women and we’re like, ‘Whoo!’ And I’m like, ‘That’s awful!’ You’re the majority gender, and you’ve got 20% of the power. Isn’t anybody pissed off about that? I hope so.”

Moore is dead-serious about the points he wants to bring across.
He’s on a mission; he has a cause. But as always he has a good sense of his audience — he keeps them in mind, using humor to balance out the information and data he’s throwing at them. Moore asks, “why don’t more documentary filmmakers, or filmmakers in general, use humor? Because there are very few documentaries, because the subject matter is so serious, I think they feel like they trivialize the subject matter. And I think, ‘No, the subject is a great vehicle to communicate with people,’ and people need to laugh; they need to relax so they can hear information. It’s a tough world out there, and people are living paycheck to paycheck. There’s the great scene in ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ where it kind of puts you in a prison and you’re watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon. He looks around and just sees how happy they are… I think if all filmmakers maybe have that attitude…”

Moore wants the movie to enter the election year conversation.
“I want to have the conversation tomorrow. We’re in it now. Whoever buys this can’t sit on it for too long. I want people to see this movie. We opened ‘Fahrenheit’ the weekend before ‘Spider-Man’ came out that summer, and we thought, ‘Why don’t we open the week before? We’ll still be in theaters.’ Back then, things were a little different.”

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