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“I’m really nervous today because you’re the first American audience for this,” Michael Moore told reporters at New York Film Festival’s Where to Invade Next press conference, after the film’s well-received screening at Lincoln Center on Friday afternoon.
The director, who also helmed 2002’s Bowling for Columbine, couldn’t help but comment on Thursday’s tragic UCC shooting that left 10 people dead. “I am, as I said in the film, an optimist. I’m not a cynic, I don’t think it’s all f—ed. I feel like that sometimes, especially when things happen like yesterday’s shooting in Oregon, what do we do about that?” Moore lamented. “[President Obama’s response] was awesome, and he inches his way toward that place where he needs to go. I hope he goes there. He’s got a year left.”
He said that he and his crew discussed Bowling for Columbine yesterday, “We’re like, ‘What’s the point of making that film? Here we are, 13 years later.’ But we know that’s the rabbit hole not to go down, because as I said at the end of the film, we know things can change and will change. I said after Newtown — and I didn’t say this glibly and it’s upsetting to think about — if they actually showed the crime scene photo of 20 first graders with their heads blown off, how long would the NRA stay in power?
“Of course I don’t want them to do this, it’s awful for the parents,” he continued, noting that last month’s viral photo of a drowned Syrian toddler spurred countries to open their doors to refugees. “Sometimes these images and what we do does matter.”
As the film — which will be distributed by a new label from former Radius founders and co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego and Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League — sees Moore and his crew “invading” Norway, Iceland, Tunisia, France, Germany and Italy, it purposely skips over the U.K. “The UK in recent years has started to look too much like us. It was on the board at one point, but the UK charges tuition — not as much as we do, but they’ve changed their value system to believe in a system of inequality, especially when it comes to income,” he explained. “I wanted to go to places where we could learn from, and I don’t think we have much to learn from them right now. Sorry to say that.” If he had gone to the U.K., he would’ve explored the British curriculum’s mandatory cooking classes to fight obesity and Scotland’s lowered voting age to 16, as research showed that young adults are more likely to vote when introduced to the ballot as high schoolers.
He also clarified to the foreign press, “Your countries have a lot of problems. Every country has a lot of problems. I didn’t go there to make a film about your countries. … There are a lot of things you’re dealing with, but that’s not my film. My film is about us, not about you. I just decided to tell a story about America without shooting a single frame in the United States.” Still, “I love these countries I went to but I wouldn’t want to live there, I like living here. I love New York; I like Michigan.”
One reporter pushed Moore to list what things the U.S. does well, to which he humorously mentioned music and cereal. “In terms of public policy, we elected Barack Obama over John McCain — that was a good idea, I think. I think that saved us a little bit. … There’s a lot of great things about us.”
And when asked about the current GOP race, Moore said, “The Republicans who are running? Oh, don’t worry about them. … Worry about the other side because if I can place myself on the other side of the fence, we don’t show up. We’re the slacker side of politics. Our side didn’t show up in the Congressional elections in the last election. … That’s how the Republicans win; it’s the only way they can win. Seventy-nine percent of the United States are either women, people of color or between the ages of 18 and 30. Young people. That’s the block you have to win to get elected. That’s 79 percent of the country! Women, people of color, young people. Donald Trump has none of those blocks! He can’t win the majority of any of those blocks.
“The candidate [who will win] will appeal to the issues that women care about, that young people care about, and acknowledge that black lives matter and there are people of color in this country that have made it what it is,” he continued. “When they debated the GOP [and say] the American people, they’re thinking of the white guy, or the angry white guy, and that’s just not America anymore. That America is over. It is more of the melting pot. … To just ignore that or to not address that or to say that you have the right to regulate a woman’s uterus but not guns? It’s like, I think the only safe place for guns is in a woman’s uterus, then they would be regulated by our Republican congress!”
“I talk politically a lot, but if I really just wanted to make political speeches, I would run for office or give sermons,” Moore concluded. “But we’re filmmakers. We love the art of cinema and we love what it can do to move people through fiction or non-fiction.”
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