The movie, which was filmed in Qatar and Tunisia, stars big names like Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto and Mark Strong. The actual main character, though, is played by lesser known French Algerian actor Tahar Rahim.
Set in the 1930s and based on the book “The Great Thirst”, Black Gold centers on two Arab tribes fighting over a patch of desert – one is ruled by Banderas’ cunning character Emir Nesib, while the other by Strong’s hard and principled Sultan Amar.
The conflict really comes to a head though, when a Texas oil man shows up to shower one of the rulers with all the petro-dollars he can dream of. And in the balance lie their children, and the peoples of Arabia (or whichever country they are in).
The filmmakers says part of the aim of Black Gold, which can only be described as an epic tale, is to try to change stereotypes of Arabs and the Arab world.
“It’s never happened where there’s a star, and the actor is really an Arab,” Tarak Ben Ammar, the film’s producer, said about Rahim at a press conference earlier in the day. “We hope this [film] begins a new era of how to show the Arab World.”
Although offering much more nuance than the usual Hollywood fare, the film isn’t able to entirely do away with cliches, and the creators admit they were influenced – at least in part – by the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
But, said director Annaud, the film is meant to appeal to a broad audience. “You don’t have to be an Arab to understand the themes [of Black Gold],” he said.
The film was actually in production in Tunisia during that country’s revolution in December 2010 and January 2011. Annaud said some of the cast stayed on during that tumultuous time because, “we loved the country, we trusted our [Tunisian] friends, and we wanted to be a part of this moment in history.”
Ben Ammar, meanwhile, confirmed that he is working to produce a film about the life of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who became an icon for the revolution after setting himself on fire in protest of the status quo. The script for that film is being written, he said, and would be directed by a Tunisian director.
Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala