RT Interview: Morgan Spurlock on the Personal, the Political and Osama bin Laden
The documentarian comes over all Kandahar.
In person, he's surprisingly tall (6'2) and a very youthful 37, even with that trademark redneck-style handlebar moustache. He's also open and friendly, so it's immediately clear why he puts the interviewees in his films at ease. We start with the genre question...
How do you describe this film? It's a comedy, road movie, political documentary mash-up.
Morgan Spurlock: I think that's a genre all to itself. I'm in a genre of one!
The other docs about Iraq and Afghanistan are much more serious. The Oscar winner Taxi to the Dark Side and Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure are virtually horror films. How does your film sit alongside them?
MS: I think mine's funnier. Taxi to the Dark Side is an incredible film and a very scary movie. Alex Gibney is an amazing filmmaker. And Errol Morris makes some of the most beautiful films ever. Someone once asked me to compare my films to his, and I said, "Well, Errol Morris makes poetry; I make popcorn." I try to make films for a very general audience. I really don't want to preach to the choir.
Well, you definitely take a more personal, less political approach.
MS: When we started this whole journey, we talked to a lot of politicians who give you the same answer that every politician gives you. For this movie, we shot 900 hours of footage and had about 100 hours of archival material, so we could have gone in three or four different directions. But for me it was a personal journey. What I think the film does really well is that it gives a voice and shows people that I don't see on television or hear their points of view. And I think that to get to see inside their homes is really nice.
And then there's the fact that you're doing this because your wife is pregnant.
MS: We were about two months into preproduction on the film, looking at how you find Osama bin Laden, when we found out Alex was pregnant. Oh, well maybe we shouldn't do this then! But when she and I started talking about it, she became supportive, because it wasn't just where is he and why haven't we caught him or what created him, but what kind of world am I going to bring a kid into. And that really resonated with her as well.
Did you know from the start that you were going to focus on everyday people?
MS: No, not until we got overseas and started talking to them. I knew I wanted to talk to somebody like me - a young father who either is going to have a baby or already has a baby. And once we did the first family interview in Egypt, I said we have to do this everywhere. We were talking to people on the streets who don't have any vested interest in being re-elected. To have that type of real honesty is rare.