Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” opens with a tight shot of a positive pregnancy test. When the shot shifts to a pixie-ish blonde, holding a cluster of other positive tests, you might be thinking, “Am I in the wrong theatre? What does this have to do with bin Laden?”
Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – this slightly off-kilter montage is the basis of director Morgan Spurlock’s quest to to protect his forthcoming son from one of the biggest dangers in the world, Osama bin Laden.
People may remember Spurlock from his acclaimed “Super Size Me,” in which he ate fast food for 30 days straight, documenting the ill side effects which help contribute to America’s growing obesity epidemic.
Spurlock follows suit by first enrolling in an urban self-defense class, preparing himself for such things as pepper spray in the face and suicide bombers. Watching Spurlock dart oncoming grenades is amusing, but not nearly as amusing as the Osama bin Laden videogame fight sequences.
A trailer park backdrop sets the scene as “red neck power” is summoned and Spurlock kicks and punches towards a levitating bin Laden. These sequences, which appear frequently throughout the first portion of the film, lighten the attitude about Spurlock traveling through some dangerous areas of the Middle East.
Those in support of right-wing practices will try and peg this film as a leftist attempt at humanizing the Middle East, but the film is not so much centered around politics as it as on cultural relativity. Spurlock travels first to Egypt, where he spends his time conversing with citizens and students about the impact of the United States on their foreign policies.
As people might expect, the Egyptians are just as unhappy with their own president as many Americans are with theirs. This first segment of Spurlock abroad sets the tone for realizing that the Middle East is not a mecca of bloodthirsty natives consumed with destroying America.
Spurlock continues to travel to other destinations, stopping in Israel, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. He is able to meet and interview some involved sources, including the siblings of major Taliban and Al Qaida informants.
However, his documentary does create more involved awareness about the types of censorship and force used on some peoples of Middle Eastern countries. In Saudi Arabia, Spurlock questions two high-school boys in a classroom. Their teachers sit near Spurlock as a translator repeats his questions. The boys, who are hesitant to speak, flinch when Spurlock asks how they feel about Israel. An awkward pause ensues, and just like that, a man says “Stop the cameras,” and the interview is over.
This forceful shut down is reminiscent of many encounters within American news media, but is emphasized further when newspapers, magazines and women’s wardrobe styles are analyzed. Close-minded viewers may feel a slight opening of their hearts when they realize that in many parts of the Middle East, freedom is not a viable option.
Spurlock’s film does a fine job documenting the truth behind creating a controversial film – of all the places he goes, he is met with varying types of people. While he does run into a few sources who are completely unwilling to talk and resort to physical violence, for the most part he is able to document people’s true feelings of frustration, anger and compassion.
The only slight flaw with this film is that viewers may find themselves asking “What’s the point?” The point is that “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” was likely created for an audience who isn’t super aware of our political activity in the Middle East.
The film is directed towards those who might appreciate an alternate perspective of foreign countries, proving that not all Middle Eastern citizens are terrorists who are out to get us. It also manages to cram a ton of humanity into a visually engaging format – the film is fun to watch as the video-game type graphics and political caricatures dominate many scenes.
While Spurlock never finds bin Laden, he does find the caves where bin Laden hid, and a whole plethora of interesting people who are happy to talk about America’s Most Wanted. Don’t see “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” expecting an answer to all of America’s tangled problems – see it expecting a humorous journey through countries full of people not so unlike our own.