AFI Docs kicked off its monthly film series of documentaries this week with Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next," an exploration of what makes a country strong, with everyone still reeling from Friday's deadly attacks in Paris.
"The French aren't going to stop being the French," Moore said during a post-screening Q&A when asked whether France might adopt Patriot Act-type measures in response to the assault that has shocked the world, and came just months after the deadly attacks on the Paris attacks of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The filmmaker's latest nonfiction offering used the AFI Docs series kick-off as its Washington, D.C. premier as well Monday night, at Landmark's E Street Cinema. It centers on his "invasion" of other countries, where he pursues some of the things that make life good abroad and claims such ideas on behalf of the United States.
He congratulates Ducati Chief Executive Officer Claudio Domenicali for "being the first CEO to meet me on the factory floor," when discussing working conditions and paid time off in Italy. It was a cheeky reference to the elusive General Motors CEO Roger Smith, whose dodging of Moore launched the filmmaker's career with "Roger & Me."
In France, he marvels at the nutritious and cheap meals school children are fed. "Lunch is an hour, where you learn to eat in a civilized manner," he muses, adding, "You know it's bad when the French pity you."
In Tunisia, he extols the Muslim country's public funding of women's health care clinics, which also provide abortions. The list goes on: Prison reform in Norway, drug decriminalization in Portugal, no homework in Finland, worker protections in Germany, women in politics in Iceland, and etc.
Although Paris' wounds are still fresh, Moore said he didn't expect the City of Lights to change much. It's been through too much, and its joie de vivre is integral to its character, he said.
Before the screening got under way, Moore ducked into another theater to introduce "Trumbo," causing minor ripples among the publicity and theater management, then ambled into E Street's Theater 4 to cheers.
"This is very cool. Thank you," he said, adding, "Wouldn't it be great, if at least once a day, someone stood up and applauded us?"
He also made sure to temper expectations of the current film: "It's under two hours. It's in color. And I don't think anyone will be too upset."
"Where to Invade Next" is released Dec. 23 in Los Angeles and New York and in January in Washington.
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