Every so often you read a book or see a movie that raps you upside the head and leaves you with a message that stays with you for a long time.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” penned by Harper Lee, who died last week, is one of those books. “Where to Invade Next,” a film by Michael Moore, is such a film.

I’m not a film reviewer and I don’t recommend many movies, but I urge everyone to see it.

In the movie, Moore, a documentary filmmaker and actor, goes around the world, stopping in countries that have the best schools, colleges, prisons and other institutions. He explores the best practices there, interviews people and vows to bring those best practices back to the U.S.

The film is funny, but dead serious.

In it, there is something for everyone — educators, students, parents, prisoners, presidents, police officers, clergy, company executives, employees, doctors, lawyers, nurses — you name it.

While not everyone will likely agree with everything in the film, I guarantee it will make them think.

I don’t want to give away too much about the movie as that would spoil it, but here are a couple of tidbits.

In Italy, Moore learned that women get five months paid maternity leave. Employees are guaranteed many more days of paid vacation than in the U.S., and employees go home daily for a two-hour lunch, paid for by their employers. In Germany, it is against the law for an employer to call, email or contact an employee on his time off, including on vacations, nights and weekends. At a large corporation in Germany, half the members of the board of directors are workers.


Because they have figured out that production is better, fewer people get sick and morale is best when workers are treated well, considered part of the team, get adequate rest and are given time to have relaxing and healthful meals. They also have determined it is critical that a mother be home with her child in the first five months of a child’s life.

In France, children in school are fed nutritious meals planned by a team and cooked by a chef. In the film, the children were shown photographs of food served in U.S. schools and they did not recognize it as food at all. Moore, a can of Coke in hand, sat down with them to eat lunch. He asked if any of them drink Coke. None did. They drink water with meals.

In countries where schools are excellent, children attend classes three or four hours a day for a total of 20 hours a week. They have little to no homework. Socialization and play, the educators there say, is very important. Teaching to a standardized test is thought to be fruitless.

Moore goes into the best prisons and visits countries where college tuition is free and drug problems are few. He asks for their secrets to success.

Ironically, he learns many of their best ideas for what works originated in the U.S. but are not practiced here.

Some of this sound a little crazy?

Maybe, and I’m sure not everyone will be enamored of all aspects of the film, but everyone should get something valuable from it.

I suggest moviegoers take what they want and leave the rest as they apply their critical thinking skills to what they see and hear.

Besides having an important out-of the-box message, the movie is beautifully filmed and the music is equally lovely.

If nothing else, viewers will see some spectacular scenery in countries such as Italy, France, Tunisia and Slovenia.

It’s an educational film full of insightful ideas, but it’s the humanity of the message that is most compelling.

And god knows, we sure could use some of that.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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