Dir: Morgan Spurlock. US. 2008. 93mins
In Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden', Morgan Spurlock super-sizes the scope of the one-man quest for truth and goes global, searching around the Middle East for the Al Qaeda leader with a $25 million price on his head. After sitting down with lots of friendly people everywhere he goes, and a few nasty extremists, Spurlock is optimistic. He finds friendship and some real laughs, but the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks eludes him.

Spurlock's debut, Super-Size Me, found a ready audience around the world with its comic corporate critique of and plain-spoken first-person narration. Where In The World should be able to build on that audience, feeding into anti-American sentiment globally and leveraging its humour to reach the public in the US that has been averse to most political documentaries set in the Middle East . The CIA's proven inability to locate Osama Bin Laden will keep the title fresh.

With no expertise (and the assistance of co-writer Jeremy Chilnick and journalist James Brabazon), Spurlock travels to the Middle East and around the US to interview people who might point him in the direction of the man whom George W Bush wants 'dead or alive.' He begins by mocking his mission, with a country song of the same title as the film, and a rap video of an Osama-like figure singing the Hammer song U Can't Touch This.

Satire in the vein of a Where's Waldo/Where's Wally parody sets the tone of the documentary, although Spurlock does embark on his journey just as his fearful wife becomes pregnant with their first child, and his underlying goal is to find a way to keep the world safe for future generations. That doesn't keep him from creating Al Qaeda baseball cards, complete with terror statistics for Al Qaeda Number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom he calls the A-Man.

Once again, Spurlock leads with his body. The same chagrined doctor who tracked the decline of his health from eating titanic portions at McDonald's appears again, inoculating the film-maker against every malady.

We see Spurlock with his signature Fu Manchu moustache training for
his quest like a Ninja. Spurlock has upgraded his trademark guerrilla style these days, with a higher budget and more experience, yet his narrative voice is still there. He is insistent and friendly, often disarmingly childish, as he approaches anyone with blunt questions about where the terrorist leader might be, whether Spurlock is in Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or Israel, all filmed by cameraman Daniel Marracino.

And the answers from his street HUMINT (CIA talk for human intelligence) tend to be similar, as Spurlock, who will soon be a father, learns the obvious truth that, even in Moroccan slums, families want better lives for their children. Most of his interviewees in the Arab world don't believe that the US war on terror has made them safer. Most think that their own governments are corrupt, and just as ineffective in combating extremism as the Bush administration is. Young Egyptian women parrot the prevailing anti-American rhetoric, and then laugh at the propaganda, confessing that they really don't know much about world politics.

The entertaining Where In The World makes you think of US traveller/journalists, dating back to Mark Twain's hilarious Innocents Abroad, as Spurlock tries to inject an adolescent common sense into cross-cultural conversations. It doesn't always work. In Saudi Arabia , anti-Christian (anti-American) and anti-Jewish screeds blast at high decibels from mosques. In Jerusalem , where Arabs on the streets denounce Osama bin Laden and an incredulous Spurlock visits bomb ruins, angry ultra-orthodox Jewish crowds force Spurlock out of their neighbourhood.

Echoes of Michael Moore are inevitable, although Spurlock ranges far more widely and personally than Moore did in Sicko, and his encounters are more spontaneous and less staged.
The intrepid film-maker draws the line at going into tribal areas of Pakistan on the Afghan border. He's told by almost everyone that Bin Laden is probably there, and warned that it's far too dangerous to go after him. Putting himself at real risk might ruin the comedy. So much for parallels with Sylvester Stallone's Rambo and Chuck Norris's The Delta Force.

Morgan Spurlock learns that the war on terror is even more of a challenge than the war on obesity among the armies fast-food consumers. The world that the smiling Spurlock tours is still a nasty place, and super-sized military budgets don't seem to be making it safer.

Production companies/backers
Non-Linear Films (US)
Warrior Poets (US)
Wild Bunch (Fr)

International Sales
The Weinstein Company
(1) 646 862 3817

US Distribution
The Weinstein Company

Executive producers
Adam Dell
Steven Dell
Vincent Maravel
Agnes Mentre
John Sloss

Jeremy Chilnick
Stacey Offman
Morgan Spurlock

James Brabazon
Julie 'Bob' Lombardi
Stuart Macphee

Jeremy Chilnick
Morgan Spurlock

Daniel Marracino

Julie 'Bob' Lombardi
Gavin Coleman

John Spurney