Director Rachel Boynton’s first film Our Brand is Crisis – about American election consultants in Bolivia – was hailed by New York magazine and others as one of the top films of the year. For her new project, Boynton turns her attention to the involvement of American oil corporations in Africa. Six years in the making, Big Men premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Rolling Stone wrote that the film 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.