Although Morgan Spurlock’s documentaries will never be seen as targeting the highly intellectual, perhaps there is a place for populist non-fiction works that address political and social issues. In this regard, Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? may be even more successful than his previous hit Super Size Me.
This time around Morgan and his wife are expecting their first baby, but Morgan becomes worried about the state of the world post-9/11. He decides to try to track down Osama Bin Laden, the man America most fears, but on his journey he learns more about the world, Muslim faith and culture, and in particular the negative way in which American foreign policy is now viewed by much of humanity.
Spurlock has a fine sense of comic timing, and a particularly well developed eye for the absurd, both of which he utilises to make what is essentially a travelogue of the Middle East far more entertaining and popularly appealing than might otherwise be expected. Not for him the dry analysis of Muslim society – Spurlock prefers to ask Muslim men for advice on fatherhood, or wonder aloud whether they have ever left their children behind when travelling by camel. Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? is punctuated by frequent laughter, something unexpected in a world so serious about the conflict between Christianity and Islam.
The difference in budget between this and his debut feature is apparent and striking, with animation sequences and even a mock ‘Street Fighter’-like section featuring Spurlock and Bin Laden that only just knows when it has worn out its welcome. There is also much less of Spurlock speaking directly into his own camera, with the increase in crew responsible for a far more polished appearance to this film.
There are occasional moments when Spurlock lingers slightly too long on a point, but generally the film moves at a crisp pace. With so much footage obtained (Spurlock noted at a post-screening Q&A at MIFF that he had more than 100 hours of useable film) one is entitled to wonder why he chose the particular scene in Israel that is shown. Additionally, the ‘sub-plot’ of the impending arrival of Spurlock Jnr. unfortunately isn’t as well maintained as it should be, particularly as in the final sequences its importance to the filmmaking process becomes more evident.
Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? is an extremely well made entertainumentary that raises previously well-covered issues in a light and less challenging manner. Perhaps it is in this form that people will be more readily reached.Rating: