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, revealing the gears as they grind away. Her topic is one that you might think you already have the gist of: the effects of international oil companies on the African countries whose resources they suck. But Big Men is no simple screed; it's a richly detailed portrait of a small American oil company's quest to begin drilling a deepwater oil field off the coast of Ghana -- and, after elections install a new populist president running on an anti-corruption platform, of Ghana's determination not to see oil become another gold or cocoa, resources the world has long wrung from the country without its people seeing much benefit. "Developing nations can't get greedy," says Jim Musselman, CEO of the Texas-based Kosmos Energy, as he explains why Kosmos won a hugely favorable deal with Ghana. As he sees it, Kosmos should see greater rewards than the industry standard -- it's a start-up taking risks. Boynton scores interviews with kings and presidents, with venture capitalists and gun-toting rebels in Niger, nearby Ghana's cautionary example. One rebel admits that their attacks on pipelines aren't always principled: A contractor has promised that if there's enough damage done, that young man could score work on a cleanup crew. The implications sting. From Wall Street to Africa, personal gain triumphs over the greater good. Except, perhaps, in Ghana, where a new president fights with Kosmos and vows to stop corruption. Will Ghana succeed? This film, a great one, demands a follow-up.
Rachel BoyntonRachel BoyntonAbramorama Entertainment