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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where's Syriana?

Starring some of Al Ain's finest thespians (an Al Ainite was Matt Damon's body double jumping into the swimming pool), we are waiting for the film's UAE release. See George's gag there? Well it could be a case of life imitating art as it's possible that the film won't make it past the censors. It could be that a political thriller about corruption in the oil industry is a little too near the knuckle, even though the crew had a free reign to film all over the country, including the desert outside of Al Ain, although this got them into a bit of trouble with the Omanis...

Or maybe the problem is with the film's sub-plot:

The film's final storyline follows the trajectory of Wasim, a young Pakistani who, along with his father, has been fruitlessly trying to earn a living in the oil fields of Nasir's country, but finds nothing but poverty, disappointment and alienation at every turn. When they are laid off from their jobs working in the field, their situation turns more desperate.

Their story mirrors that of the thousands of Pakistani laborers who have left their homes and families to try and find work in the Gulf. When they are met with job scarcity, sub-human living conditions, and struggles with immigration officials to stay in the country long enough to find employment, the disillusioned young men are drawn to the madrassas, or Islamic schools, some of which may seek to indoctrinate them into a radical interpretation of Islam. A number of these boys may become involved with terrorist organizations, and a few are ultimately persuaded to sacrifice their lives as suicide bombers. Such is the path that Wasim finds himself on as his life in the Gulf unfolds.

When his friend Farooq introduces him to a cleric at a nearby madrassa, for the first time Wasim feels he has a place in the unfamiliar country, and becomes more and more drawn into the cleric's radical teachings. He and Farooq are soon preparing themselves for a deadly act from which they will not return.

Wasim is played by Mazhar Munir, a young actor making his major motion picture debut in Syriana. Born and raised in London, he has appeared on several British television series, including the award-winning Doctors. "Wasim is no different from any other teenager," says Munir of his character. "But where someone of his age should be concerned about the new pimple growing on his forehead, he has to worry about making money to feed his family, and just trying to survive. He understands that there is more to life and wants better things for himself and his family, but each time he makes an effort to improve his life, forces beyond his control prevent him from doing so."

There were several days of shooting in Dubai during which Munir and the rest of the production got a firsthand look at the quality of life experienced by immigrant workers like Wasim and his father. "It was scary," recounts the actor. "There were six or seven men and boys squashed into these freight containers that were converted into some form of housing quarters, in 100 degree heat and with no adequate ventilation systems and very little light. I hope when audiences see what the lives of such people are like, they'll understand what draws them down such a road and try to understand and not judge Wasim. Hopefully, the film will enable viewers to begin to understand how people are manipulated into performing such horrible acts."

"To me, the audience's greatest emotional connection in the film is through these two young boys," George Clooney muses. "I think it's a really interesting thing when you take the two most likeable characters in the film and then watch as they're sucked into this fundamentalist group. And you begin to understand how something like that could happen. It's not an excuse for it at all, but it is saying that you can't just categorize things. They are human beings and they make decisions - some of them wrong, but we understand what led to those decisions."

From the Syriana promotional website

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Blogger Punk Dervish said...

Having some curiosity about international oil economics and politics, i watched the movie with maimum concentration but still couldn't figure out some of the details.For example why did CIA killed it's own opearative ?
.the movie is making news at awrds too .George Clooney bagged a golden globe award for his role in the movie.

1/18/2006 11:58:00 pm  
Blogger nzm said...

I saw the movie in the US.

PD: the CIA is a monster that will kill its own mother for no reason.

That said, it wasn't the CIA that sent George to intercept the convoy, it was Dean Whiting a member of the Committee to Liberate Iran (CLI), and the one who persuaded the emir to elect his younger son.

AAT: the subplot synopsis is brilliant - and really sums up the story of the Pakistani boy and his father.

I really liked this movie - it's a balanced look at every side. If there's any side that comes out looking worse, it's the CIA.

I don't think that a lot of the movie watchers would have understood the movie if they didn't live in the Middle East, and understand how things are done here.

There's a classic example of this when the aging Emir chooses his younger, less-qualified son over the more charismatic, older son (who is keen to break the powerful ties that his country has with the US) to run the country when he steps down. The emir has been "advised" as to which son he should choose, and it's really based upon which son can be more manipulated by those around him.

The violence is warranted - there's not a lot of it, but it's brutal and very real. It comes as a shock when it happens.

All around, it's a well thought-out and well presented movie, and I seriously hope that they do show it in Dubai without the rigorous censorship.

It's very weird seeing bits of Dubai in the background too - a bit distracting!

It also makes me wonder how many car bombs are caused by double-crossing weapons deals!


1/19/2006 09:20:00 pm  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...


Sadly I cannot take credit for the subplot analysis; it was from the film's promotional website.

When I do eventually get to see it I'll do a write up.

1/20/2006 09:36:00 am  
Blogger Punk Dervish said...

nzm: Thanx for clearing the point about the movie.I saw a pirated camera print of the movie here in Pakistan. The sound quality was not very good ,i had to listen hard but i succeeded in understanding most conversations well.

1/20/2006 11:26:00 pm  

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