Sunday, 17 March 2013

Black Gold, or Day of the Falcon

I also enjoyed the Arabian adventure film Black Gold which poses the question would the life and culture of desert city and nomadic living Arabs have been better if they had not embraced the offer of modernity by entering into contracts with oil exploitation firms. The French produced film also called known as Day of the Falcon and Black Thirst was disastrous at the Box Office and with the critics despite featuring the excellent actors Mark Strong and Antonio Banderas.

The story centres on two ruling families who have gone to war for many years over disputed territory between their two cities drawing in support from the nomadic tribes who also live in the area. In order to seal the peace agreement, the father of one agrees that his two young sons should be brought up in the household of the other. The two boys have very different personalities with the younger sensitive and bookish and establish a close friendship with the daughter of the household Princess Leyla until she reaches puberty and is hidden away with the women.


Then the balance is disturbed when the Emir (Banderas) bringing up the sons of the other is persuaded to allow those working for Texan oil to commence drilling in the area of disputed territory thus breaking the agreement. Arsing from the first successful drilling, prosperity begins to reach his city and he makes one of the adopted sons a senior office in his army and the other head of a new Library, while the daughter looks on admiringly. By a mixture of bribes and promises he gets the leaders on the nomadic tribes to support the oil extraction and then sends an envoy to try and bring his former enemy into the deal sharing in the opportunities for hospitals, schools and other social benefits.


Amar (Mark Strong) remains a traditionalist Sultan and hostile to progress and refuses the offer of a percentage of the profits. His eldest son Prince Saleh believe he can persuade his father and leaves the other Palace but kills one of his minders in doing so and he is captured and killed. The Emir decides to allow his daughter to marry her life long friend Prince Auda as a means to prevent war and shortly after the marriage sends his son in law to try and convince his father.


Instead Auda is persuaded that there is much in favour of his father especially on learning that only 5% of the profits had been offered. He meets up with the tribal leaders and persuades them that their way of life is threatened although he opposes the slavery operated by one group, rescuing the daughter of another leader which results in gaining the man’s support when she is returned.


The Emir has used his new wealth to purchase planes and tanks, machines guns and other modern weapons which creates a tremendous imbalance between the two forces. Audi’s father hits on a plan in which he leads the official army in the straight route to the city while his son and the tribes attempt to cross the desert and attack the Emir from an unexpected quarter.  They and the camels barely survive the travel from a lack of water but just when all appears lost Auda works out that there are fresh water springs just off shore so they are able to find drinking water for themselves and their animals. Auda also appears killed in a battle but survives turning him into a god which has the benefit of inspiring the others to take on the planes and the tanks which are ineffective in the desert conditions.


The consequence is that are able to come to city which has become poorly defended. In the battles and skirmishes which take place, the Emir loses his son and Auda’s father is killed.  Princess Leyla who has refused to divorce her husband as the Emir has wanted joins her husband as they become leaders of the two cities. But what to do about the Emir? Auda has the brilliant idea of using the father in law’s cunning and diplomatic skills to act as the representatives of the new combined states to negotiate the best terms with the companies for the exploitation of the oil. And the film closes with everyone gaining from the agreements reached.




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