Title: Brad Pitt-Produced ‘Big Men’ Explores Greed in Nigerian and Ghana Oil Exploration
Dated: Thursday, 22 August 2013
A movie executive-Produced by Brad Pitt -‘Big Men’ Explores Greed in West African Oil Exploration specifically Ghana and Nigeria. This Documentary premieres at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Producer and Director Rachel Boynton first went to Africa in 2006 to research her documentary Big Men. Six years later, she had a film that takes an expansive, yet focused, look at how oil makes its way from deep in an ocean off the coast of Ghana to the U.S. stock exchange, and the ensuing complications.
The film explores the connections between the Ghanaian company who finds the oil field, the small Texas oil company who drills, the Wall Street private equity partners who invest, and the Ghanaian government officials who manage the contracts. The glitch, depending on your seat, comes when Ghanaian leadership changes, the justice department is called in to investigate allegations of corruption on the part of the U.S. firm and credit contracts due to the financial crisis.
The film’s backdrop is the increasing violence in Nigeria, where militants are stealing from and blowing up foreign gas pipelines in an effort to siphon off profits from the corrupt Nigerian government who isn’t sharing the riches. The doc simultaneously looks at the process and implications of western companies investing in foreign oil ventures, profiles an African country trying to profit after centuries of exploitation and watches as everyone navigates how to slice the billion-dollar pie.
Boynton also looks at the psychological motivations for the individual players, all striving to be masters of the universe, or in West African parlance, “big men.” Rolling Stone spoke with Boynton about her cautious optimism for Ghana, the legacy of Milton Friedman and working with Brad Pitt and Sebastian Junger.
Click to read her full interview with RollingStone.com
See snippets below:
RS: You explore the fallout from oil exploration in Nigeria. Do you think that the same thing could happen in Ghana? Rachel: Well sure. The same thing can happen anywhere where oil is discovered. But I’m cautiously optimistic about Ghana. They are asking for advice from all sorts of people and there is really a vibrant press there, and people who are asking questions of the government, watchdogs basically. The problem is there is just so much money involved. And there’s just a lot of practical things that need to be addressed, like you have to teach your ministry of finance how to do the accounting properly. I’m optimistic about Ghana but there is a danger that it could become Nigeria, just as there is a danger that anywhere where a massively valuable resource is found can become a hotbed for corruption.
RS: It seems like everyone is trying to be the “big men,” the Texas landmen, the Nigerian militants, the Ghanaian people, the politicians. . . .
Rachel: The tag line on the poster is ‘Everyone wants to be big.’ And it’s funny because the term ‘big man’ or ‘big men’ is a very common term in Nigeria and in Ghana. There it’s an every day phrase. But it’s not just everyone in Nigeria or everyone in Ghana. It’s Milton Friedman. Everyone wants to be big, everyone wants more for his own people. And so then the question becomes how do we define who our own is?
RS: Speaking of big men, Brad Pitt executive-produced the film. What was his involvement?
Rachel: I was traveling with Sebastian Junger in the Niger Delta, he was writing an article for Vanity Fair, and he had had some correspondence with this guy called Jomo Bomo, who was basically the publicist for the militants. He had written Jomo Bomo saying, hey, can I get access and Jomo Bomo had written back saying, I don’t know who you are, you are out of luck. And then apparently Jomo looked him up on the internet and read about The Perfect Storm. Once he figured out who Sebastian Junger is he said, ‘Oh, no problem, I’ll give you access, just give me a signed copy of your book.’ So I thought, I need to bring on an executive producer that means something, and I went home and I asked Brad Pitt to executive produce the movie, and he read the pitch and he got really excited.
Paulina says: I wonder if the supposed Ghana clips are filmed in Ghana or in East Africa and if the supposed Ghana’s people speak any recognisable local dialects or Swahili (laughter)!!!
I wonder if any known Ghanaian actors are in it!!! I would research for more info but I can’t be bothered to google ….sorry!! I’m afraid you are going to have to do it yourselves…… But do share info as and when you find it…
I wonder if this film will end up like that ‘Blood Diamond’ film –exposing some darkness!!!!! I’m guessing we’ll just have to wait and see. My goodness I’m full of wonder for this film.