Interview: Boisterous Morgan Spurlock on Latest Film ‘Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?’

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CHICAGO – Morgan Spurlock wants to change the world. The creator and filmmaker who took on fast-food giant McDonald’s in his first film (“Super Size Me”) is now taking on the current global war on terror and the image of the most wanted terrorist in his new film “Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?”

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5Traveling to the “hot spots” in the Middle East including Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Spurlock talks both to the leaders and people of the regions.

Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?
Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary “Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?”.
Photo credit: Daniel Marracino, The Weinstein Company


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Not only does he light-heartedly search for the elusive Bin Laden but he also tries to promote understanding about why a harmful byproduct like terrorism can emerge from religious and political movements.

HollywoodChicago.com recently interviewed Spurlock about the context of his documentary and also to get an idea of why he approached this particularly complex theme as a subject for a new movie.

“Movies are an incredibly inspiring medium. Movies do have the ability to transcend culture, transcend countries and transcend the barrier of language,” Spurlock said.

He added: “Hopefully through film you can get people to start to think about things in a way they normally wouldn’t. People look at films as an entertaining medium. For me, if you can entertain and get others to think at the same time, then you’re actually accomplishing something pretty great.”

Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?
Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary “Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?”.
Photo credit: Daniel Marracino, The Weinstein Company

The trademark in Spurlock’s method is humor. He establishes this early through an animated prologue that describes his impending fatherhood and then morphs into a video-game style that pits him against the evil image of Bin Laden.

“We were about six months into post-production when – in the middle of the night – I got the idea for the video-game look. I thought it just made sense because it was a typical ‘good versus evil’ video-game scenario you experience when playing,” Spurlock related.

“I also wanted a bridge from my generation to the younger generation as well. This style spoke to me. I hope it speaks to others,” Spurlock said. “We started working with Curious Pictures, which developed the popular game ‘Rock Band’. They helped make that video-game look a reality.”

“I wanted to give more voice to the moderates and the ordinary people who usually don’t get a platform. The more we empower those people, the less influence an extremist like Bin Laden has.”

~ Director Morgan Spurlock

In preparation for the trip to the Middle East, Spurlock went through language lessons, booster shots for potential disease and survival training.

“It messed with my head a bit when they started to talk about potential injuries as in: ‘What do you do when you’re shot in the neck?’ When you talk about things like that, it makes you realize you’re going into possible grave situations. It can get a little hairy,” Spurlock said.

And so it was. When going into militarized zones like the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan, there were several dangerous stops along the way. Through it all, though, Spurlock talked to the native people of the areas to get information and understanding about the grip that Bin Laden has put on the world.

“I wanted to give more voice to the moderates and the ordinary people who usually don’t get a platform,” he asserted. “The more we empower those people, the less influence an extremist like Bin Laden has.”

Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?
Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary “Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?”.
Photo credit: Daniel Marracino, The Weinstein Company


In mixing with the different countries, Spurlock exposed the control on thought and action that governments and religion have on people. In Saudi Arabia, two adult officials sat in on an interview with 18-year-olds and an orthodox section of Israel wanted him out and his cameras off.

“[The orthodox Israelis] are closed off to outsiders to begin with,” he recounted, “but there was one individual who came up to us and assured that the situation didn’t represent everyone. That one scene speaks volumes for the whole movie – that it’s a small group of radical people who will take aggression to another level.”

Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?
Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary “Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?”.
Photo credit: Daniel Marracino, The Weinstein Company

Spurlock chose not to debate politics and noted the extreme factions on both sides of one particular conflict.

“The bigger picture of what I wanted to do was paint a portrait of what people have to face on an everyday basis,” Spurlock said.

He added: “[I exposed] the people in Palestine who live within walls and have to go through multiple checkpoints just to get home to the everyday people in Israel who have to live under the threat of bombs – and even bombs shot from Gaza falling from the sky.”

It’s a valiant thesis as a movie and is another in a long string of rational “why can’t we just get along?” propositions. It’s also frustrating to realize we live in a world of Bin Ladens.

This has perpetuated the U.S. to wage war when the average citizens of the conflicted regions simply want peace for their children.

Spurlock dedicated his film of peace, love and understanding to his new, 16-month-old son. He concluded: “The goal for me was to try and create a forward-thinking movie – a movie that would ask the question: ‘Where do we go from here?’”




“Where in World is Osama Bin Laden?” opens on April 18, 2008. In Chicago, the film will show at AMC River East, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, Landmark’s Renaissance Place Cinema and Century 12 Evanston.


More From the Mind of Morgan Spurlock

StarOn fellow documentary maker Michael Moore:

“The one thing about Michael – and people can say what they want about him – but whenever he makes a movie, he creates a topic that immediately becomes headlines on newspapers, magazine covers and broadcast news. To be able to generate a dialogue about a topic just from a movie is tremendous influence.”

StarOn “Super Size Me” and its influence:

“The film caused a lot of people to look at their business practices. Even more important, McDonald’s eliminated super-sized options and came out with a lot of healthier menu items. What was really satisfying was how individuals wanted to change their diets.

I meet people every day who show me old pictures of themselves and say: ‘This used to be me. I lost 100 pounds because after seeing your film I changed the whole way I ate.’ It’s an amazing little film for what it did. I’m astounded by it every day.”

StarOn whether he has eaten at McDonald’s since and if his son will ever go there:

“I haven’t been back to a McDonald’s since March 2, 2003 where we had a party for my final meal there. When my son – who is being raised in a vegan household – is ready for a real hamburger and a real milkshake, there are so many better places to take him to.”

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

patrick roberts's picture

Morgan Spurlock

Morgan Spurlock never ceases to impress me… i just saw Super Size Me, which as amazingly insightful, and now this? well done indeed

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