Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden

I did not think about the date when Kristi and I watched Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden last night. We had wanted to see it when it came to Tampa in the spring. However, for some strange reason it was in town for only 1 or 2 weeks (which was bizarre to me- Morgan Spurlock has a much bigger name than most documentarians). This is a highly pertinent and very entertaining film, more of a travelogue than a traditional documentary.

Like Michael Moore,Spurlock's personality is a major ingredient of the flick. Either you like him or not. if you don't- you won't like the film. A film making version of A.J. Jacobs , Spurlock inserts himself into the story and walks us through it. However, unlike Moore, Spurlock is an easy going presence and not much of a lightning rod. In fact, I cannot imagine anyone disliking him (unless they have a hardcore agenda). He is a regular guy, just a little crazier or braver. He has opinions, but has no agenda, besides finding out whether his opinion is correct by journeying through life.

Luckily, he invites us to come along for the ride. As I stated, what makes his storytelling work is that walks us through issues instead of preaching. He asks questions and allows the story arch to answer the question, comfortable with ambiguity. In this film, along with his TV show 30 Days, Spurlock shows he is a master at the skill of empathy. He wants to walk in the shoes of others and experience the world from their point-of-view, trying to understand what the "other" sees and how they feel. It is an experience that too many Americans, and a growing number of American Christians refuse to have. It is a skill we look down upon, whether it is asking why non-Americans hate us or gays feel oppressed. We seek platitudes instead of answers, which Spurlock refuses to allow.

Spurlock begins in NYC, frightened of the world he is bringing his newborn into in a few short months. He decides to try to find the most wanted man on earth in an attempt to make the world safer, but really to understand what we are scared of. He heads to Egypt, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan, spending time with our "friends" and "enemies," letting them tell their stories, whether it is American soldiers in Afghanistan (the forgotten war- the one we have allowed ourselves to lose),* the Palestinian oppressed by walls, Afghans wanting the US to fulfill its promises, Egyptians angry at their nation's leaders or Pakistanis wanting us to die.

This would be a terribly wrenching film experience if not for Spurlock's utter Everyman Joy and sense of humor, bringing laughter from enemies and reacting like a little boy when he fires a RPG launcher. He is us and that is why this film works, from the goofy songs to the video game (redneck Spurlock vs Osama), this film is fun, educational, nonpartisan and insightful. Plus, it is very short, with very good outtakes (including some more politically minded scenes not in the final cut). Highly recommended for anyone and everyone.

*yes I have pacifistic tendencies, but I offer no illusions when it comes to Afghanistan. The US is not a Christian nation, so it has a right to be there, as long as it rebuilds the country and fulfills its purpose in a proper manner. I support active peacemaking, but understand Just War theory for a nation desiring to protect its self interest and way of life. I am a realist, as well as an embracer of the Christian principle of active nonviolence (I don't expect a nation to fulfill my convictions, but I expect it to live up to its own better devices).

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