It took Rachel
six years to make her film “Big Men,” a movie she is proud to say draws parallels between radically different places and people. “It shows you
what the Texan oil executive has in common with the Nigerian militant
struggling to make a dollar. And in doing that, it’s saying something
about what we all have in common.” The film focuses on the 20% of oil that is imported from Africa and how that connects us and makes up dependent on one another.
What it’s about: A real-life Treasure of the Sierra Madre with oil companies, African
governments, Wall Street financiers and gun-toting militants.
What else should audiences know?: “Big Men” is a fast-paced tour through the high-powered world of African
oil deals with crazy access to everyone. It gives you a ticket to places
you’ll never get to otherwise, taking you into the room as company
executives meet with Heads of State and into the jungle as militants
blow up pipelines, causing worldwide oil prices to soar. Two narratives are interwoven in the film. These two stories are
happening in very different places (the Kosmos Energy story unfolds in
Ghana and Texas and New York; the Nigeria story unravels in the swamps
of the Niger Delta). In the cutting room, Seth Bomse (the editor) and I
were constantly challenging ourselves to see connections between
seemingly disparate worlds.
On the challenges: “Getting an oil company to let me film in an independent, unrestricted
way was also a big challenge. Oil companies are not known for being open
to independent documentarians who want to film their private
conversations for several years. And when I started making Big Men, I
knew no one in the oil business. But Kosmos Energy was special – it was
privately financed by Blackstone Capital Partners and Warburg Pincus and
the guys who ran it had an amazing track record of finding oil where
others had failed. So they felt confident and proud of what they were
doing. I think that’s why they were open to letting us tag along.”
What she hopes audiences will walk away with: “We all want to become bigger than we are, to make more money and to
achieve greater renown. And everyone is concerned with looking after his
own people – his own family, friends, tribe. company, shareholders. The
major difference is in who each of us considers “his own” to be. For me, the safeguard against divisive self-interest lies not in denying
that we’re all looking out for ourselves, but in recognizing and
valuing what connects us. So I hope people come out of “Big Men” thinking
about that too.”
Films that inspired her: “Darwin’s Nightmare (by Hubert Sauper) was on my mind all the
time. Particularly how they managed to structure it, to peel back layers
of the onion one at a time. I love the structure of that film.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.