"Super Size Me" attempts to bring Osama down to size
Michel Comte weighs up Morgan Spurlock who plays the hero of a documentary that lifted the lid on fast-food giant McDonalds.
Jan 25, 2008 - As the hero of documentary "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock subjected his body to a month-long regime of cheeseburgers and french fries as he lifted the lid on fast-food giant McDonalds.
In his latest film the wise-cracking director takes on an altogether more
hazardous subject: setting out to capture the world's most wanted man,
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The result -- "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?" -- was premiered at
this week's Sundance Film Festival, with audiences eager to see if Spurlock
could recreate the magic of his groundbreaking earlier film.
"I got the idea for the film in 2005," Spurlock told AFP in an interview.
"(US President George W.) Bush had been re-elected, bin Laden had released a new tape and (pundits) were saying, 'Why haven't we found this guy, where in the world is Osama bin Laden?'" After undergoing training to help school him in the art of avoiding snipers and kidnappers, the film follows Spurlock as he travels to Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and finally Pakistan to try to find the fugitive who continues to elude the CIA, FBI and the US military.
He queries distant relatives of 9/11 hijackers and Taliban members, and
roams Saudi shopping malls and supermarkets asking passers-by for clues to his whereabouts.
At Sundance this week, publicists handed out cartons of milk with bin
Laden's mug shot and description: male, almost 6.5 feet tall, 165 pounds, last
seen in Afghanistan in 2001. Reward 50 million dollars.
In truth, the film is less an actual search for bin Laden than for what
leads young Muslim men to embrace the Al-Qaeda leader's fanatical
"What began as 'What a great title for a film' became 'What kind of crazy
world creates an Osama bin Laden' and I started worrying about bringing a
child into it," Spurlock said. Spurlock's sense of apprehension was made more
acute after his wife Alex discovered she was pregnant two months into
The lesson of the film, Spurlock said, is that the realities of the
post-9/11 world are not black and white.
"I learned that what we see on American television, in the media isn't what others in the rest of the world think of us, or of themselves. It's much more complicated than good versus evil," Spurlock said. "Most people I met were moderate, and I thought it was important to hear from them."
In one telling scene, Spurlock nearly provokes a riot when he tries to speak to ultra Orthodox Jews in Israel. "We had to call the police to get us out of there. But what I loved about the scene is one person came to us out of the crowd to say, 'Most of us don't share their point of view, and don't want to beat you up.'"
With the film expected to be in US cinemas ahead of the 2008 US election in November, Spurlock said he hopes there will be "a shift" in US policies.
"It would have been easy to bash Bush in the film, but for me it was about
'What do we do next? Where do we go?'"
"There were so many people around the world that I met who looked to
America with so much hope ... hope that America will change. They want America
to be a beacon of democracy and to stop supporting dictators."
In the end, after purportedly honing in on bin Laden in Pakistan's tribal
Peshawar region, Spurlock gives up the chase to head home to be with his wife
who was about to give birth to their first child.
"If I'd found him, I'd have loved to sit down with him and ask, 'How can
this all end, or is it never going to stop? What's the answer?'" he told AFP.
"When word leaked out that I was making this film, (bloggers) said, 'If you
find him, you should kill him or lock him up at Guantanamo.'
"That's easy to say from your bedroom or couch in wherever USA, but when
you're deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, and you just want to come home to
your family, it gives you a very different perspective," he said.