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Originally published Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM

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‘Big Men’ follows the flow of a Ghanaian oil discovery

A review of “Big Men,” Rachel Boynton’s astonishing documentary about the 2007 discovery of oil off the coast of Ghana.


The New York Times

Movie Review

‘Big Men,’ a documentary written and directed by Rachel Boynton. 99 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

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Not for nothing does “Big Men,” Rachel Boynton’s astonishing documentary about the 2007 discovery of oil off the coast of Ghana, open with a quotation on greed from the economist Milton Friedman. Dropping us into a perfect storm of avarice, this cool and incisive snapshot of global capitalism at work is as remarkable for its access as for its refusal to judge.

Tagging neither heroes nor villains, Boynton wonders instead who benefits from, and who is harmed by, the billions of dollars in play.

While the big men fight for percentages, we travel to Nigeria to witness firsthand the trickle-down consequences of more than 50 years of oil extraction. Apocalyptic scenes of poverty, corruption and violence greet us.

Bringing to life a netherworld of shifting agreements and shuffling allegiances, “Big Men” unfurls a complicated story teeming with masked militants, well-fed politicians, reassuring suits and the desperate poor.

To the film’s major players, whether the development of Ghanaian oil will be a boon or a curse to the nation’s citizens seems irrelevant; when money is talking, those who have none also have no voice.



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