Producer Tia Lessin says holding your country to high standards and pointing out ways to improve it “is an act of patriotism.”
She joined Emerson College students and community members via Skype in the Bright Family Screening Room on October 6 for a discussion of her film, Where to Invade Next, written and directed by Michael Moore, following a screening of the film as part of Emerson’s Bright Lights film series.
Chico Colvard of the UMass Boston Film Series, who co-presented the event, moderated the question-and-answer session. Lessin fielded questions about her original acquaintance with Moore, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and the use of satire and humor to discuss politics.
“When you can laugh, you can listen and develop empathy,” Lessin said in the post-film discussion, calling humor “a device to get through to people and communicate with them and entertain them.”
Where to Invade Next follows Moore around the world as he satirically “invaded” various countries and “stole” their best ideas that he thought could be implemented in the United States. He went to, among others, Italy to “steal” its mandatory eight weeks of paid vacation and five months of maternity leave; Slovenia for its subsidized universities; Germany for the way students are taught about their dark history; and Tunisia for its government-funded women’s health care and abortions.
“Democratic socialist principles around the world are activating the American Dream we promise people here at home,” Lessin said.
She also commended Moore’s decision to focus largely on countries where women play a significant role in their leadership. “Where women have leadership positions around the world…there seem to be more humane societies.”
While funny on the whole, the documentary did have its solemn moments as it touched on police brutality, the systematic incarceration of black men, and the Holocaust.
“When you can laugh and cry within minutes, that’s incredible,” Lessin said.
After the discussion concluded, Emily Soloman ’17 reflected on what a political satire such as Where to Invade Next means in the midst of this country’s heated political climate.
“She’s very smart,” Soloman said of Lessin, “and has clearly given a lot of thought to what this film means in the context of this election, even though it was produced before a lot of this election was underway. So I appreciated that, and I hope they are in some way able to take messages from this film and get it out there as we get closer to Election Day.”
Soloman also noted the optimism of Where to Invade Next and the importance of looking for solutions to the problems that exist on a systematic level.
“We’re so used to criticism and so much frustration and anger,” she said, “so having less ‘this is what’s wrong’ and more ‘this is what could be’ was really powerful.”