In April 2004, few had heard of writer-producer-director Morgan Spurlock, whose credits to that point included just a handful of plays and a gross-out show for MTV called I Bet You Will.
One month later his documentary Super Size Me was released, chronicling the one month Spurlock spent on a steady diet of McDonald’s — three Mcmeals a day, no exceptions, resulting in an extra 24 pounds tacked onto his normally lean frame.
He quickly graduated from the ranks of small-time filmmaker to that of giant killer as audiences flocked to theatres to take in his message about the potential dangers of a fast food lifestyle.
McDonald’s immediately began trying to discredit the film, but that publicity only fuelled Super Size Me’s blazing box office figures which eventually topped $20 million worldwide, according to the ticket sale aggregator Boxofficemojo.com.
The film was nominated that year for the Academy Award for best documentary, but ultimately lost to Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski’s Born Into Brothels.
Then in 2006, Spurlock decided to embark on yet another extreme filmmaking mission. This time around instead of taking on fast food giants, he would take on public enemy number one — terrorist leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden — or at least try to find him in the new documentary Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?
The five month shoot took Spurlock to a variety of Middle Eastern locales ranging from Afghanistan’s dangerous Tora Bora region, to the relatively peaceful neighbourhoods of Jerusalem in a pursuit of Al Qaeda’s number one man — assuming he was still alive and at large.
But in the midst of the project, Spurlock learned he and his wife were due to have a baby, complicating his globetrotting plans.
“Once I found out Alex and I were having a baby, the focus shifted to the kind of world I was bringing a kid into,” Spurlock explains.
“We started adding to our list of terrorist experts, terrorists themselves and extremists, people with kids and families. I wanted to meet people like that who were what I was going to be. I’m going to be a father, give me some advice. What’s it like being a dad? I wanted to try to connect with people on a level that’s much different than a political view.”
Spurlock says the documentary was intended less as a statement about the war on terror, U.S. foreign policy and the cross-cultural similarities that exist but regularly elude us, than it was as a primer for a greater conversation about those issues and their impact on the world today.
“One of the things I wanted the film to accomplish was to go beyond two-minute sound bites in the news,” he says.
“I think the film paints a much larger picture of the state of the world, at least in the Middle East. Another thing I think the movie does really well is it starts to show the diversity of Islam … there’s a big range (of cultures in the Muslim world) and you see that in this movie.”
Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden opens today.