Hot Docs Review: Big Men [2013, Rachel Boynton]


I’ve seen enough documentaries to realize and accept the fact that most filmmakers lean towards the left when it comes to telling stories. So imagine my surprise when I saw how well balanced Rachel Boynton’s Big Men was.

A tale about resource exploitation and the people behind it, Big Men starts with the discover of oil off of Ghana’s coast. As one would imagine, the discovery of oil has major financial implications and we are introduced to plenty of players who wish to benefit from it. Among them include Ghana officials, money lenders in New York and activists. Primarily though, the documentary follows Kosmos industries, a small Dallas firm that first discovered the oil. The access to Kosmos is almost limitless and we see the company struggle to maintain their hold on the oil industry in Ghana as other players use both economical and political means to get their piece of the pie. I for one, am surprised a supposedly giant evil Oil company would allow as much access as Kosmos did, but I guess at the time it was just a little group of people out of Dallas.

Spanning a range of five years, we follow these players from the inaugural discovery to some major milestones. With an amazing amount of access to basically everywhere including rebel militant groups in Nigeria. You will literally get goosebumps as you watch the fully armed, full masked rebels go do disruptive things. With this much access, Rachel Boynton is able to capture first hand opinions and motives behind most groups that are effected by the oil. While it’s hard to empathize with the million and billionaires that are involved, you can kind of understand their motives and logic behind what they do. It was also interesting to see political figures as they start off with the best intentions and then slowly have the billions of dollars involved start to sway them. I really enjoyed how the director laid out the cards on the table and showed perspective from all sides of the equation. It all makes for a fascinating film about one of the most controversial topics in the world today.

Big Men plays:
Thu, May 2 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Fri, May 3 8:00 PM at Hart House Theatre
Sun, May 5 11:00 AM at Isabel Bader Theatre

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.