Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Syriana: It's all about oil

I hope George Clooney's Syriana, a political thriller about the oil business in the Middle East, will match up to my expectations as I'm getting more and more tantalizied by every report or review I read about it, including this one in today's Globe & Mail (UPDATE: Read my review of "Syriana" here.)

For those wondering what the word Syriana means, G & M explains that Syriana takes its title from a term used by certain Washington think-tanks to describe a hypothetical Middle East reshaped by their ideas of democracy. Stephen Gaghan the writer- director of the movie says he began contemplating on the plot--the global oil industry--while researching Traffic, which uses multiple storylines to explore the human cost of the U.S. anti-drug wars. He then makes a very insightful analogy between the user-dealer paradigm of Traffic and the context of the oil business in the Middle East:

"If you're a user standing in the kitchen of a drug dealer, you might see handguns lying on the coffee table and his kids sitting close by watching TV and think to yourself, 'This is not good parenting.' But as a user, you're not about to comment on this," he explains. "Similarly, for many years the dynamic between oil-producing and oil-consuming nations essentially involved a tacit support of the status quo in the Middle East.Now, of course, America is involved in a massive democracy deportation exercise." (Listen to Stephen Gaghan speaking about he movie here.)

Syriana is loosely based on former CIA agent Robert Baer's memoir "See No Evil" which forms basis for the character of Bob Barnes in the movie, a CIA veteran played by George Clooney.

Syriana will open tomorrow in select cities and on December 9, nationwide. To watch the trailer click here.

On a related note, IMDB reports that George Clooney has rejected claims his latest movie is a veiled attack on President George W Bush but refuses to apologize for the film's politically sensitive themes:

Syriana - a political thriller focusing on the oil industry - has sparked controversy for its sympathetic portrayal of two Pakistani boys who become suicide bombers, but Clooney is adamant their story must be told. And he is disgusted by claims the film, in which he plays a CIA agent, singles out George Bush for criticism, arguing it is an attack on "the system" rather than a particular person. He says, "There are going to be people who will be very angry at the idea that we took a couple of suicide bombers and showed how they could be formed, instead of just categorizing them as evil. I'm an old-time liberal and I don't apologize for it. With Syriana we're going to get beaten up politically in some places. Fair enough, because we've taken a stand. It is not an attack on the Bush administration but it is an attack on the system that has been in place for 60 or 70 years - oil always being at the center of it."