College Road Trip

Documentary film with Morgan Spurlock
Running Time: 90 mins
Rated: Rated M (conflict themes and coarse language)
Not only is it a good question, it is one of the main questions of the last seven years. The practical answer, if he is not dead or disabled, is that Osama is hiding in the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border and, on the evidence of images of the remote caves and their survival and aggressive contents, this is feasible.

However, Morgan Spurlock comes to the conclusion that many others have endorsed: it doesn't matter. Al Quaeda set a movement in motion that has extraordinary and dangerous impetus despite him and/or without Osama bin Laden.

So, what in the world is Morgan Spurlock up to? One might say that he has a preoccupation with individuals and institutions of which it could be said, 'they might be giants'. After his demolition job on McDonalds and their supersizing (let alone the risk to his own health), he has done it again with the world's most notorious terrorist leader (not without, again, risks to his own health and safety).

Spurlock has the great cinematic advantage that he comes across as a genial personality taking us into his confidence as friends. So does Michael Moore whose films are sometimes mind and emotions-boggling with their exposes. Morgan Spurlock is more humorous, even flip as he makes his points.

After some health testing and language and culture input, he sets off in his quest. In the background is his wife's pregnancy and his promise that his journey will be over in time for him to be back in the US for the birth. This is a recurring theme throughout the film giving it some emotional and time urgency.

Off he goes to a range of countries (all listed like a video game or a catalogue on a TV game show, including a singing and dancing animated Osama bin Laden).

This is what is most interesting. Obviously, he must have hours and hours of material but Spurlock has chosen to offer samplings of people from each of the countries so that audiences will share his impressions. In Egypt, he interviews some Bin Laden relatives who are supportive of their notorious relation. In Palestine, he becomes as bewildered as most observers do about the plight of the Palestinians, many for peace, many not, with Israel. But, life in the Gaza strip can be bitter. In Israel, he meets people who know that the result will be two states but ponder the hardships to be endured before that happens. Some of the righteous Israelis do themselves no service in demonstrating their intolerant and potentially violent responses to the stranger filming in their midst.

In Afghanistan, Spurlock goes embedded with American troops. He goes into the dangerous mountain areas. In Pakistan, he interviews the widest range of people for reactions about terrorism.

Some commentators have sneered at the film for not offering anything new. They have misunderstood Spurlock's intentions. He is attempting a personal cinema essay, especially for American audiences, that uses the lighter touch at times to highlight the issues, to show that many people around the world, Christian, Muslim or men and women of no religious faith, believe in peace and understanding - and that this is a goal for everyone.

Icon Films Out August 14

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.