Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Morgan Spurlock's sleeper hit SUPER SIZE ME was a brilliant documentary because it had a simple but original and important concept at its heart: to demonstrate the nutritional toxicity of junk food by eating nothing but McDonalds for a month. It was also a success because Spurlock has an amiable personality that masks the disingenuous fakery involved in all documentaries that feature the director as the leading character.

WHERE IN THE WOLRD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN is, by contrast, muddled, superficial and unenjoyable. The big, simple concept is that Morgan Spurlock will travel the world looking for Bin Laden, Of course we know and he knows that he won't find him, but the less headline-grabbing concept is that, by visiting the places Bin Laden grew up, was educated, proselytised and fled to, he will come to understand how the Islamic world views America.

At first, it's quite touching watching this affable, liberal-minded, earnest American realise just how far a lot of normal, non-fundamentalist people think America is actively causing harm. After a while though, his observations on geopolitics are revealed for what they are - superficial and trite. Indeed, Spurlock sinks his own boat when he shoe-horns his movie concept into the tale of the birth of his first child. He claims that his wife's pregnancy spurred him to discover "what sort of a world he was bringing his child into".

Frankly, I think Spurlock over-shot in picking the subject for this doc. He's better off leaving geo-politics to Alex Gibney and the like, and concentrating on exposing the petty injustices of modern America.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN played Sundance 2008 and was released in the US, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK earlier this year. It is currently on release in Finland and goes on release in Iceland on October 31st. It is also available on Region 1 and Region 2 DVD.

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