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More Reviews – Big Men

“It is film about how the system works and how we are connected. Everyone fundamentally is looking out for their own.” – Director Rachel Boynton from interview in Humanosphere.
“Meet Big Oli’s ‘Big Men’ in Nigeria and Ghana”

“While Boynton’s film is not an explicit moral meditation or fable on good and evil, it certainly has elements of the genres, forcing the viewer to ask critical questions about the nature of oil politics — as in who should control the development, exploitation and use of that most prized commodity?” Chris Herlinger, National Catholic Reporter
“Documentary delves into players in the dangerous game of oil”

“(Boynton) goes inside board rooms and presidential living rooms, onto oil rigs and the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and weaves together a nuanced tale of global capital, local politics, and the magnetic pull of treasure buried deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor. Ian Gary, Oxfam America
“Big Men” documentary a backstage pass to Big Oil drama

No single perspective is elevated above the others by the filmmakers, instead, each is given equal space to state their case. The effect is to provide a glimpse into the hugely complex sector of oil (and other extractive resources) production, and into corporate/government relations.” John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations
Big Men”: Ghana, Nigeria, and the United States

“It presents the story of big oil in Africa in a way that reflects the nuanced nature of the subject. Its reflection of reality is as insightful as it is troubling, and it is worth watching.” Adiel Suarez-Murias, Alliance for Peacebuilding
Big Men”: A Film by Rachel Boynton

 

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More Reviews Big Men

More Reviews – Big Men

“‘Big Men’ provides a compelling account of the murky waters of corporate engagement with the state in Africa. Looking specifically at the case of Ghana and Nigeria, this documentary provides veritable insight into how corporate greed, state insensitivity to the needs of the people continue to define relationships within extractive enclaves of Africa. As the documentary shows, oil and the politics of it would continue to shape relationships in spaces of extraction such as Nigeria and Ghana for a long time to come.” Omolade Adunbi PhD, Assistant Professor in Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Faculty Associate in Program in the Environment, University of Michigan

“No single resource is more essential to modern life than oil, and no film offers a more incisive look at how the enormous wealth oil creates subverts the morality of individuals, corporations, even entire countries than Rachel Boynton’s compelling documentary ‘Big Men’.” Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times

“Dropping us into a perfect storm of avarice, this cool and incisive snapshot of global capitalism at work is as remarkable for its access as for its refusal to judge.” CRITIC’S PICK, Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

“If you want to know how the world works, as opposed to how we are told it works – or how we wish it might work – you need to see ‘Big Men,’ a remarkable new investigative documentary about oil, money, Africa and America that comes with Brad Pitt’s name attached as executive producer but was directed by Rachel Boynton.” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

“This moral-economic drama plays out in backroom deals that Boynton records in all their stunning and at times shameless candor.” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“In ‘There Will Be Blood’, Daniel Plainview uses vivid imagery to explain his plundering of an oil rival’s resources: ‘I drink your milkshake.’ In the complex, compelling new documentary ‘Big Men’ the combatants can scarcely maneuver their straws without stabbing each other in the eye.” Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

“There are three categories of schemers in ‘Big Men,’ Rachel Boynton’s illuminating documentary about the oil business in West Africa: businessmen, politicians and bandits. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell the types apart.” Mark Jenkins, NPR

“Here’s the rare current-affairs documentary that doesn’t just show us something gone wrong in some part of our world. Rachel Boynton’s first-rate ‘Big Men’ instead peels the skin off the world itself, revealing the gears as they grind away, casting familiar doc scenarios in shades of illuminating gray: The heroes and villains in global business aren’t always easy to suss out, but it’s never hard to spot the victims.”
Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

“Boynton’s most impressive feat in ‘Big Men’ is how she takes an impossibly convoluted scenario, makes sense of it and tells a story that’s riveting on its own but also serves as a parable about greed and human nature.”
Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post

“A kind of true-life, slow-motion disaster flick for the NPR set, director Rachel Boynton’s ‘Big Men’ is an engaging documentary that roots down into the very human and relatable effects of the discovery of a huge African oil deposit upon a disparate variety of characters, from the penthouse to the pavement.”  Brent Simon, Shockya.com

“Rachel Boynton directs this hard-hitting documentary about oil, money, globalism, international finance, corruption, and greed.” Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice

“Boynton pulls the thread and unravels a tale that gives fair balance to all sides of the equation, while asking a much bigger question about whether or not true human nature is guided by self-preservation (read: greed) or if people can truly act in the greater good. And the answers are surprising.” Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

“What sets ‘Big Men’ apart and makes it engrossing is the extraordinary degree of access Boynton had to the major parties and the deftness with which she uses it.” Frank Swietek, One Guy’s Opinion

“Larger questions lift this doc above being a simple lecture on how greed is bad and big oil is evil, making it into something with more heft.” Hank Sartin, RogerEbert.com

“[‘Big Men’ is shaped with] a consistently keen sense of art, boosted by Jonathan Furmanski’s skilled cinematography.”
Chris Barsanti, PopMatters

“Drilling far deeper than standard issue docs, the ‘Big Men’ director’s rich, thrilling movies investigate people and their power plays. There’s real, volatile life here…” Robert Greene, BFI

“Like a number of recent hot-button docus, from ‘Crude’ to ‘Inside Job,’ Rachel Boynton’s extraordinary ‘Big Men’ should come tagged with a warning: The side effects of global capitalism may include dizziness, nausea and seething outrage. Using razor-sharp journalistic skill to untangle the knotty saga of an American petroleum company’s entrance into the West African republic of Ghana, Boynton’s film also poses a series of troubling philosophical questions: Is unchecked greed an intrinsic part of the human character? Is ‘the greater good’ ever more than a convenient euphemism where big business and big government are concerned? Wide fest exposure and ancillary sales seem assured for this Tribeca world premiere, which also richly deserves a theatrical pickup.” Scott Foundas, Variety

“No single resource is more essential to modern life than oil, and no film offers a more incisive look at how the enormous wealth oil creates subverts the morality of individuals, corporations, even entire countries than Rachel Boynton’s compelling documentary ‘Big Men.’” Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Rachel Boyton makes complex, character-based films about huge issues over multiple continents with several moving points of contact. ‘Big Men’ is a multi-faceted nonfiction thriller about oil, geo-political intrigue and personal rises and falls that synthesises its immense ideas into a taut narrative. It is a feat of spectacular filmmaking which always foregrounds meaningful observations over grand gestures.” Best of 2013 Nonfiction List, Sight and Sound Magazine

“‘Big Men’ follows the Texas-based Kosmos Energy as it searches for oil off the West African coast and then, soon after their discovery, as they renegotiate with a new government in Accra. The film also delves into the entrenched corruption and violence in the Niger Delta, providing a stark backdrop to the growing worries about what might happen in Ghana. [The big strengths] in this film include incredible access to key players, including inside Kosmos, the Government of Ghana, and the swamps of the Delta; the complexities of the issues facing countries and investors are thoughtfully handled with care and subtlety; [and] the tension of a real-life thriller.” Todd  Moss, Center for Global Development

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big men dvd cover educational

Big Men

Big Men

A film by Rachel Boynton
99 minutes, color, USA, 2014
DVD includes: Closed Captions, Chapter Markers, Bonus Scenes

File under: All Films, Business/Entrepeneurship, Environment, Film Studies, Government, Home Video, Homepage, International Law, New Release

Synopsis

“Big Men” is a real-life Treasure of the Sierra Madre, an epic tale about ambitious people who uncover a massive and exquisitely rare pot of gold in one of the poorest places on earth.

In 2007 US-based Kosmos Energy discovers the first oil in the history of the West African republic of Ghana. What follows over the next five years is a twisting tale of greed and deception, which director Rachel Boynton films with razor-sharp journalistic skill. While in Ghana she makes side trips to nearby Nigeria, whose own oil reserves have been responsible for a vicious cycle of exploitation with little appreciable benefit to the country itself.

“Big Men” travels from company meetings about oil deals worth billions to gatherings of heavily armed militants preparing to strike. And along the way it poses vital questions about what fundamentally motivates us: Is unbridled greed an intrinsic part of human nature? And can what unites us ever be greater than what divides us?

A remarkable verité portrait of the deeper implications of global capitalism and the quest for oil, acclaim and cash that affects us all.

Reviews

***1/2. Offering a powerful examination of the more corrosive effects of big capitalism on the global stage, this excellent documentary is highly recommended. Read the full review here

~ Video Librarian

 

“It’s a brilliant bit of storytelling so will be of interest to a broad audience and will be of special interest to courses on post-colonial development in Africa and international business. Highly recommended .” Read the full review here

~ EMRO

“This film presents an in-depth record of meetings on all sides, resulting in an eye-opening picture of the high-stakes battle over foreign investments and the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources.” Read the full review here

~ Booklist Review 

“‘Big Men’ takes us on an extraordinary voyage along the African oil frontier and provides an utterly unique look into the inner workings of the global oil and gas industry.  In placing the new oil scramble in Ghana alongside the explosive and turbulent history of oil production in its neighbor, Nigeria, the film shows how the “big men” – whether in Houston, New York, Accra or Port Harcourt – are part of the same rough and tumble universe of oil men desperately competing for the new oilfields, which bring wealth for some and misery for the majority.  A tour de force.”

~ Michael Watts, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
and author of The Curse of the Black Gold

“Rachel Boynton’s extraordinary ‘Big Men’ should come tagged with a warning: The side effects of global capitalism may include dizziness, nausea and seething outrage. Using razor-sharp journalistic skill to untangle the knotty saga of an American petroleum company’s entrance into the West African republic of Ghana, Boynton’s film also poses a series of troubling philosophical questions: Is unchecked greed an intrinsic part of the human character? Is ‘the greater good’ ever more than a convenient euphemism where big business and big government are concerned?”

~ Scott Foundas, Variety

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