Making the Grades
Documentary maker Morgan Spurlock is about to witness the birth of his first baby in just a few months. But instead of worrying about what color to paint the nursery, this man-with-a-camera is convinced the world has become more dangerous in the past few years. And the guy responsible for making this planet a rotten place to raise a child is Osama Bin Laden.
But how can one person possibly fix this problem? By setting out to find the most infamous culprit of our time -- and bringing a film crew along because there are bound to be some interesting moments.
Traveling across the Arab world, Spurlock begins his search in Egypt. From there he dines with an impoverished journalist in Morocco, then heads to Israel and Palestine. Finally, the American determines to go after his target in his ancestral homeland, Saudi Arabia. Things get even tenser when he eventually makes his way to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Thankfully, in what could have been an ill-intended jaunt with the sole purpose of soliciting laughs at the expense of the faces he has his lens aimed at, Spurlock instead creates a surprisingly thoughtful commentary. Interviewing Arabs of many different beliefs and circumstances, the father-to-be asks what they think and feel about both Osama and the United States.
Content issues are few, but may give some parents pause. There are at least five sexual expletives in this film, as well as more uses of moderate and mild language. Some violence is shown: Everything from a simulated bloody head wound on a pretend victim during a training session about avoiding terrorist offenses to capturing the images of soldiers shooting a man. (Although we only hear the shot and moments later see them carrying the body, this is a documentary and the killing is real.) A couple of moments of sexual innuendo are also included.
With its sassy title and somewhat irreverent promotional trailer, viewers may be inclined to brush this production off as fluffy entertainment. Nor is Spurlock helped by his last photojournalist effort Super Size Me, which attempted to make a good point but lacked credibility due to his focus on one fast food chain. But this time he has done a better job of balancing bias by selecting a wide range of people to interview. Even better, he willingly steps aside and lets his subjects do the talking, allowing them to share an informative perspective on this very difficult topic that has already been discussed en masse by other media.
As we listen to the words of clerics (Christians, Muslims and Jewish), academics, journalists, soldiers, military officers (both U.S. and domestic) and many "ordinary" people on the crowded streets, two definite themes are revealed: The vast majority of these Arabs shun Osama, yet at the same time, are frustrated with the current U.S. administration's handling of terrorism. Throughout, respect and love for the daily struggles of both Arabs and Americans are voiced.
Over and over, we hear parents from these diverse cultures, standing in ramshackle homes, modern Israeli streets, or huddling outside their tents in the desert, expressing their simple desires. They want to raise their children in peace, with the prospect of a good education and the hope of a better future. It's a powerful reminder of the common goals the vast majority of this planet's inhabitants share. It also makes Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? a valuable discussion starter and thought provoking experience for older teens and adults.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden.
One of the closing comments in this movie is, “I always bet the millions of regular people in this world will win out over the crazies.” Do you agree with this? How can this recognition offer hope for the future? How can you be an effective “regular person” in your community?
What can the creator of a documentary do to place a bias in his movie, yet still make it appear that both sides of an issue are presented? In this movie or any other documentary, why is it just as important to consider what isn’t shown or heard as opposed to what is included.