Movie Details

Black Gold

Set in the 1930s Arab states at the dawn of the oil boom, the story centres on a young Arab prince torn between allegiance to his conservative father and modern, liberal father-in-law. Emir Nesib (Antonio Banderas), sultan of a group of tribes and Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) of Salma are at a dispute with their border. Both have been fighting war for a vast barren land they call "The Yellow Belt". Emir Nesib decides to put an end to the war by striking a deal with Sultan Amar, where the Yellow Belt belongs to neither and should be left as a no man`s land. As a guarantee, Emir Nesib takes Sultan Amar`s kids Saleh and Auda so that Sultan would not break the pact. Reluctantly, Sultan Amar agrees. Years pass and the kids grow up. Auda (Tahar Rahim) is still the bookworm, while Saleh (Akin Gazi) hopes to see his father someday. The time comes when Nesib is told of valuable crude oil beneath the ground of the Yellow Belt...

Language: English
Subtitle: NA
Classification: NC16
Release Date: 15 Nov 2012
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 2 Hours 10 Minutes
Distributor: SHAW ORGANISATION
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Format: 35MM, 2D

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Review
Writer: Ng Suzhen

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Watch this if you liked: “The Eagle”

Conflict is very much the centrepiece of this lengthy coming-of-age story disguised as an epic struggle of power over the control of oil.

It's interesting to see how the Koran is being debated from various perspectives among the characters living in the Arab desert during the 1930s as they interpret the words of the book based on their view of the world. There is the God-fearing Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) of Salma who rules according to a strong religious code, encouraging men to deprecate comfort while his adversary Emir Nesib (Antonio Banderas) of Hobeika is fond of modern facilities which he believes would have prevented his wife's death.

When oil is discovered on a piece of barren land called the Yellow Belt, more conflicting opinions surface as Nesib sought to benefit from the riches while Amar believes it should not be exploited, causing the two tribes to once again wage war against each other.

Smack in the middle is Auda (Tahar Rahim), the unnoticed son of Amar, who along with his older brother is placed under Nesib's care as hostages. Starting out as a bumbling softie who is only interested in books, Auda's hidden talent to lead is forced to surface when his brother retaliates and is killed in the process.

Representing the voice of the younger Muslim generation, Auda works to convince his father of the modern ways, believing him to be rooted too much in the past. However, his respect towards his father's words often comes between Auda and his belief.

Tahar Rahim, while suited to play mild-mannered Auda takes more convincing as the boy who matures into a leader. Often, his expression is blank and only comes to life in the few occasions of mourning his brother's death and getting frisky with his beloved wife and daughter to Nesib, Princess Leyla (Freida Pinto).

Things get a little more interesting when Auda's half-brother, Dr. Ali (Riz Ahmed) comes into the picture. The doctor, a little disillusioned with the religion due to conflicting opinions with older Muslims (and his father) about the use of modern medicine, also serves as comic relief. Delightfully played by Riz Ahmed with a penchant for luxury items, Ali is a relatable character who hopes to do good but is unfortunately limited by society and the environment he is living in.

"Black Gold" is beautifully showcased with an amazing cinematography of the desert. A long shot of Amar and his soldiers praying in unison on the desert ground is a scene not to be forgotten easily. However, the movie could have fared better if its lengthy run could have spared more time in giving certain supporting characters more depth and background, with Ali being one of them. It would also be interesting to have learned more about the Salma convicts, intended to be sacrificed in battle when forced to march into the desert with Auda.

Certain audience would find "Black Gold" to border on boring with its lack of action sequences but ultimately, the movie serves to challenge viewers' perspective on differing opinions stemming from a common origin.

Cinema Online, 29 November 2012
   
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Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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