TORONTO— “Mike’s Happy Movie” was the working title of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Where to Invade Next,” but few would consider its examination of American ills – from runaway college tuition to mass incarceration – the stuff of bubbly, feel-good delight.

Yet “Where to Invade Next,” in which Moore plunders foreign ideas like Italy’s government-mandated vacation or Portugal’s decriminalized drug use to bring back home to America, has an unmistakable whiff of hope. Yes, Moore, that passionately voluble critic and left-wing icon, is feeling a wind at his back. Moore’s first film in six years, he says, was partly inspired by change he’s witnessed in recent years, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the success of marriage equality.

“I am crazily optimistic about things getting better and people having the power to do that and making it better,” Moore said. “But remember, I’m a filmmaker and my first concern is always to make a great movie. If I don’t make a great movie, then the politics are what?”

In “Where to Invade Next,” which Moore is currently shopping for distribution, he travels to various countries seeking smarter ways to educate, police and work. “Instead of sending in the Marines,” he says in the film, “send in me.”

“This concept of American exceptionalism is the death of us,” Moore said. “We know personally it does none of us any good walking around going “Yeah! Yeah!” That’s not the path to self-improvement. I mean, you can like yourself, and I do. I love the fact that I’m an American. … But I also embrace the other side of it, and in doing so, it’s incumbent upon me as a citizen to want to help fix it.