REVIEW: 'WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN' Provides More Than One May Think
Before I start, I’d like to say how this film fell through the cracks is beyond me. I recall having heard about it and perhaps reading about it as well, but my attention-span must have been working on low, because it faded quicker than the year this film was released at Sundance back in 2008. However, having come across some Sundance 2011 news, Morgan Spurlock’s name came back up as he was over at Park City, UT speaking to Sundance graduates, and to my luck, a list of Spurlock’s projects was provided—one of them being ‘WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?’—it caused a spark and I finally got my hands on it!
My biggest complaint with Morgan Spurlock's last film ‘SUPER SIZE ME’—even though I still loved it—was the inevitable feeling that you always get when a director narrates/stars in his own work: the risk that what he says and does can intentionally or unintentionally come off as really sometimes resulting in talking down to an audience rather than educating or inspiring. This is even harder when making a film to appeal to a broad demographic, as you often have to entertain rather than provide strict facts and it is a problem that documentary filmmakers like Michael Moore have faced from time to time. However, there’s still room for appreciation to a large degree, and Morgan has found a fantastic balance. ‘WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?’ is a near-perfect mix of style.
In the beginning of the film we learn Morgan's wife is pregnant, prompting him to ask himself, "How can I allow my child to grow up in such an unsafe world?" Though definitely tongue-in-cheek, this average and perfectly legitimate question leads him to the question of global terrorism and he decides to do what anyone in any big budget American action film does; a stupid ordinary guy fights back.
Using his wife's pregnancy as a backdrop, he travels to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and finally Pakistan to attempt to come to the conclusion of where Osama bin Laden is. As an American, I can safely say that I am aware that the United States' foreign policy has not exactly put us in a good image for the rest of the world. Morgan Spurlock investigates what seemingly completely different cultures think of us and attempts to break the barriers of what common American propaganda has taught us about the Middle East.
He interviews civilians, military officers, poor people, rich people, various relatives of Osama and other known AQ a/k/a Al Qaeda operatives, government officials, heads of departments, and just people on the street to try to understand why the so-called "war on terror" is really as ridiculous as it appears to be.
He tries to eradicate common stereotypes about Americans while at the same time learning more about cultures that we ourselves intensely stereotype, to learn that we're really not all that different. The film's greatest strength is the fact that Morgan learns with the audience. It does not feel like he is preaching to you, but you and him are both on this journey, from speaking to the Jews about Palestinians and the Palestinians about Jews, to finding relatives of known terrorists who watch WWE professional wrestling and having dinner with farmers in the ghettos of Iraq while discussing raising kids. It helps illuminate one of the world's greatest disappointments, how the people who are the most extreme and the most negative are the only people we care to think about, how the moderate majority's opinions are not represented, and ultimately how people are alike all over despite cultural barriers and popular stereotypes.
All we are asked to find out if Osama bin Laden really is the most dangerous man in the world? Is Osama really the problem or is he the symptom of a bigger problem? Do the people we think are like him even really like him? It is a very good balance of an entertaining, mass-appealing film that neither dumbs down its material nor treats its audience like idiots or the director like a genius. It is also a very humanistic film, showing how the many good people are all too often overshadowed by the few evil ones who just happen to have more power and influence.
I hope that more Americans, particularly ones constantly fed gross stereotypes and lies by their government or chosen news networks (FOX News) get to see this film. This movie is a true eye opener; it should be talked about and shown to every college student, as well as every American child.
On a side note: During Morgan’s segments in Egypt, it’s clearly stated by many he interviews on how fed up they are under the dictatorship of Mubarak. So, coincidently, the current uprising in the region right now comes to no surprise. From college students to your typical carpet dealers, their frustrations were openly exposed, therefore, with current events what will remain of the region next remains to be seen. I do hope this gets nipped in the bud promptly as I have plans of visiting the pyramids of Giza prior to my death, however, most importantly, for the betterment of its people as a whole.
‘WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN-LADEN?’ is now available via NetFlix and RedBox
GRADE: A+ / GENRE: Documentary, Politics/Religion and Minor Comedy / ROARS: 5 out of 5
RATED: PG-13 / RUN TIME: 1 Hr. 33 Min.
STARRING: Morgan Spurlock, Alexandra Jamieson, Daryl Isaacs, Yair Lapid
DIRECTOR: Morgan Spurlock
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