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Michael Moore on gun control and what he likes about America

Documentarian Michael Moore spoke at the press screening of his new film, "Where to Invade Next," and didn't hold back about the recent shootings and how the Republicans belong to an old America.
Michael MooreWhere to Invade Next

Michael Moore appeared at the New York Film Festival to speak about his new film “Where to Invade Next,” which follows him touring the globe, finding public programs (from vacation time to school food to the role of women) that function better than they do in America. But as was his wont, he was quick to roam about whatever caught his fancy, from the way America mistreats teachers to the sorry state of the GOP to the even sorrier fact that his 2002 doc “Bowling for Columbine” is still, this very week in fact, relevant. What follows are the highlights from his press conference. The film itself will be in theaters in December.

What America does do well: “We still do rock ’n’ roll and music really well. Hip-hop. They’re still not very good in France with that. … I like the choice of cereal here. Massive choices. No, I love these countries I went to, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I love living here. I like New York, I like Michigan. In terms of what we’re doing right, in terms of public policy, we elected Barack Obama over John McCain. That was a good idea, I think. That saved us a little bit. I don’t think most of these countries are going to elect someone of African descent as the head of their country.”

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His message to Finland, one of the countries he visits: “Your country has a lot of problems. Germans, French Italians, every country has a lot of problems. I didn’t go there to make a film about your country. You need a Finnish documentary filmmaker to do that. And you don’t need Americans telling you what to do. As I said in the film, I came to pick the flowers, not the weeds. I acknowledge if you’re watching this and saying, ‘But does he know about…?’ No, I don’t, actually, I don’t live there. There are lots of things you’re dealing with. But that’s not my film. My film is about us, no you. I just decided to tell a story about America without shooting a single frame in the United States.”

How he would fix American schools: “I would feed them healthier food. I would make their happiness my primary goal. I’d let them be kids. Are there any parents here who have kids in junior high or high school who are doing homework at 10? 11? Midnight? Somebody figured out how to make money off of [schools], so there’s a machine behind this.”

On teachers: “We treat our teachers like crap. They love teachers over there [in Europe and elsewhere]. They did a poll of teenagers and young adults about professionals and which ones you want to marry the most: doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons, people at NASA. And doctor was number one, of course, but number two was teacher. That felt like the coolest thing if I was married to a teacher. … Here, teachers qualify for food stamps in some districts.”

On the Republican presidential candidates: “Don’t worry about them. Worry about the other side. Because we don’t show up. We’re the slacker side of politics. Our side didn’t show up at the Congressional elections the last election. That’s why they have the House and Senate. That and gerrymandering. That’s the only way they can win. There’s a statistic that 79 percent of the United States are women, people of color and people between the ages of 19 and 30 — young people. Those are the blocks you have to win to get elected. Donald Trump has none of those blocks. He can’t win the majority of any of those blocks.”

On the growing diversity in America: “For the first time, three and a half weeks ago, the first time in our nation’s history, the school year opened where the majority of kindergarteners were non-white. First time ever. That’s our America. When they debate at the GOP about ‘the American people,’ they’re thinking of the white guy, or the angry white guy. That’s just not America anymore. That America’s over. It’s more of a melting pot. So to ignore that and not address that or say that you have to regulate a woman’s uterus but not guns — it’s like the only safe place would be in a woman’s uterus. Then they would be regulated by the Republican congress. I hope that came out right.”

RELATED: Chart shows deaths from gun violence vs. deaths from terrorism: Vox

On the recent shootings: “Yesterday I thought, ‘What was the point of making that film? Here we are 13 years later.’ But we know that’s a rabbit hole not to go down. Like I said at the end of [‘Where to Invade Next’], we know that things change and will change. I said after Newtown — and I didn’t say this glibly, and it’s upsetting to think about — but if they actually showed the crime scene photos of 20 first-graders with their heads blown off, how long would the NRA stay in power? And of course, I don’t want them to do that, and it’s an awful thing for the parents and family to hear something like that. But a month ago, a three-year-old, four-year-old child washed ashore on the beach, a refugee. And there was a photo. And it instantly rippled in these countries — Germany, Austria. They said, “Let ’em in, come in. 400,000, come to Germany, Austria.” It moved the German people, it moved the Austrian people. A photograph of that child was so upsetting. Sometimes these images can affect change. ‘Bowling for Columbine,’ it’s sad it’s so relevant.”

On staying optimistic: “It doesn’t take a lot — just a few people have got to do something. It’s not a lot of people. No change has occurred with the masses. It’s always a few. Twenty-five percent supported the American revolution of the colonists. It’s a minority, always a minority. Jesus had 12 guys that fished. Marx and Engels — a couple of old farts warming their hands on the fire, talking s— with each other.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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