Where in the world?

Ben Raymond

Morgan Spurlock is fearless. There’s no two ways about it.

Smash hit “Super Size Me” made millions of Americans think twice before chasing their Big N’ Tasty down with an Oreo McFlurry.

Now, done with fast food, Spurlock turns to the only logical next step: counter-terrorism. Counter-terrorism?

“Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?” is only Spurlock’s second feature film. Traveling across the Middle East, he follows the trail of the world’s most-wanted man, fully expecting to find him.

Despite the title, the film is less about bin Laden and more about the minds of Middle Eastern people. Nearly the entire movie is a series of intimate conversations with religious leaders, politicians and common citizens alike.

Spurlock commented on his experiences, saying, “It was absolutely amazing talking to these people. I went into all of this fully expecting to be unwanted or even in some kind of danger. I was just shocked at how generous these people were to me.”

Not all in the Middle East were so welcoming. Outside Tel-Aviv, an Israeli tank fired over Spurlock’s crew. In Tora Bora, two Al-Qaeda soldiers fired at the crew’s military convoy. One attacker was shot and killed on camera.

But the scariest moment of the film came with no gunfire or violence of any kind. While at a school in Saudi Arabia, Spurlock was permitted to interview two handpicked students (under the hawkeyed supervision of their teachers and principal).

When he asked the two what they have been taught about Israel and the West, the boys’ eyes immediately shot up to their schoolmasters. They were not allowed to comment. Each looked at the other, trying to avoid angering their superiors.

“We have to stop the interview,” the principal said.

The boys were ushered out of the room, and Spurlock was asked to leave. Actually seeing the freedom to speak one’s mind repressed is a terrifying thing.

“How can we resolve our differences if we can’t talk about them,” Spurlock asks. “These kids have no chance.”

After a recent screening of the film, Spurlock himself joined the young audience for a question-and-answer forum.

One student asked, “How would you have felt had bin Laden actually been captured while you were filming?”

Spurlock laughed in retreat, hesitant to answer.

“I would have been pissed,” he said. “I mean, we thought about that. Of course I want the guy caught,” he said. “We all do. I don’t want anyone to think otherwise. But speaking as a filmmaker, you think of that happening and all the work we put into this thing, and it would have been a bummer in that way.”

This made much more sense. I asked him about not finding bin Laden and asked if that was at all disappointing.

“I really expected to find him,” Spurlock said. “Disappointing? I don’t think so. I did my best. But I’m a father now, and I realized that I have to take care of my son.”

Spurlock’s wife, who was pregnant at his departure, gave birth to a baby boy less than a month after his return. The idea of creating a better, safer world for his son to live in is Spurlock’s underlying motivation for making the film.

“Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?” is a smart, sobered documentary about the commonality shared between the West and Middle East and how indoctrination and extremism on both sides have marred attempts at peace.

Spurlock’s candid, no-bull direction and storytelling make for a powerful documentary.

It’s funny, poignant and revealing. More importantly, it educates as well as entertains. He challenges us to be truly educated, to realize that Muslim or Christian, Arab or American, we all share common ground.

Terrorism has long transcended a solitary insulin-dependent sociopath scheming on a rock in northern Afghanistan. It has transcended its isolation. Terrorism is an idea.

Spurlock understands this. Fight fire with fire. Guns will never shoot down a mentality. We need dialogue, even sympathy.

The last line of the film goes, “I look forward to raising my son. I am excited about giving him a public education.”

Spurlock leaves us with this for a reason. To combat terrorism, xenophobia and hatred, we need an open, internationalist education.

The idea that America is always right or that all Muslims are freedom-hating extremists must be changed.