Kids don’t really like documentaries. Thats what they say — its because they are generally boring. But thanks to filmmakers like Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), we have found that a documentary can be made to be fun, informative and sometimes incredibly important.
The latter of those characteristics is probably the best way to describe Spurlock’s next film Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, which premiered here at Sundance this week. With Bin Laden, Spurlock begins the journey with a credit sequence that includes a breakdancing Osama Bin Laden, setting the tone for a documentary that is incredibly engaging and fun, all while having something very important to say.
The shenanigans do continue as we look at the war on terror through the sarcastic eyes of Morgan Spurlock, whom we last saw attacking consumerism and the fast food industry. As only he can, Spurlock weaves a balance between the message of his film and his knowledge of the fact that he must keep the audience engaged in the film. In one moment, he is speaking very seriously with a close relative of Bin Laden and in another moment a cartoon Osama and a cartoon Morgan are having a smackdown, Mortal Kombat style. It is all at once the most interesting, insightful and ridiculous thing I have seen in a long, long time.
The fun and games are for the kids, though — my generation. And the fact that he has found a way to weave this very serious message together in a sometimes lighthearted tone is what could make this film the most important documentary of 2008. That is a big thing to say, I know. But in an election year it will be important for a younger generation to be brought closer to the real issues at hand — the fact that, as one of Spurlock’s interviewees says, “Extremism nourishes itself from darkness” — the fact that in order to really fight a war on terror we must fight the ideals that lead people to violence, not just the person at the top. It is not the traditional “Cut off the head and the body will fall” situation, and Spurlock’s documentary exposes that.
Overall, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? is a movie that everyone in the youth of America should see. Our parents may not understand it — they are just too far along. And whether you agree with the politics or just appreciate the humor in Morgan Spurlock visiting a McDonald’s in Saudi Arabia, this movie will leave you laughing throughout and contemplative in the end. As I said, it is one of those movies that could be very important — if the right people see it.