“Black Gold” or “Day of the Falcon” is the most ambitious Qatari production so far, with a big budget and packed with stars, yet it was a failure in the box office and with critics. Why that was the case? Was it fair? Let’s discuss it here.
Let’s begin the FIFA World Cup Special Series, in which we talk about a movie from each country playing the competition, beginning with the host, Qatar.
“Black Gold” tells a fictional story about the actual discovery of oil reserves on the Arabian Peninsula in the 30s.
In this tale, an American company finds oil reserves in an area disputed by the Kingdoms of Salmaah, led by Sultan Amar (played by Mark Strong) and Hobeika ruled by Emir Nesib (played by Antonio Banderas).
Emir Nesib wants to explore the oil reserves and use the money to develop the kingdom, while the conservative Sultan Amar wants the area to remain untouched and neutral.
In the middle of the dispute, Prince Auda (played by Tahar Rahim) will have to choose to be loyal to his father, Sultan Amar, or Emir Nesib, who raised him and became his father-in-law.
To be honest, this was not my first option at all, but since I haven’t found a way couldn’t watch Khalifa Almuraikhi’s Clockwise, I settled for Black Gold.
Black Gold seemed too Western, with two white Europeans as Sultans, and much more than that, as we’ll soon see. But this western ties was exactly what made it more accessible for me and for those of you who already saw it or that will see it.
The first act is slow and choppy, which makes an awful flow. In this segment, there’s no development of the characters or their relationships, so we’ll only be able to attach to anyone much later, if at all.
The best example is Princess Leyla (played by Freida Pinto), who spends most of her time watching Auda from afar. We don’t get to know anything about her character, who became my least favorite, and she doesn’t even get the chance to develop anything meaningful with Auda until they get married.
Things get better in the remaining acts, where enters lots of action, adventure, war and so forth. That’s where we can feel more for the characters and see their relationships building.
For example, Auda meets Doctor Ali (played by Riz Ahmed), a brother he didn’t know he had. We watch as their relationship develops, and that makes us more attached to them. It made me, at least, I liked Doctor Ali as a character.
It was during the second act that the movie evoked more emotion in me. There were some delightful moments of joy, triumph, sadness, and so on. The conclusion of the film, however, was bland, devoid of any emotion. It’s not the whole third act like that, only the very ending.
What is consistent throughout the whole movie is orientalism and how the western world is only a minor and benevolent part of it. Of course, the only interest of the west is to help these far-away nations thrive. It’s not like they would fake evidence of weapons of mass destruction, just an excuse to invade a country and control its oil.
As for orientalism, for those who don’t know, it’s the stereotypical and, might I add, racist, depiction of the East. For example, people divided into savage tribes, women as odalisques and dumb fundamentalist Muslims. Black Gold has it all.
Still regarding orientalism and racism that was very criticized was the casting of Banderas and Strong as Arab Sultans. It’s shit I know, but if it wasn’t for the casting of white famous actors, I bet the movie would get even less attention and money.
In an ideal world, Qatar could put money in a completely national production, with Qatari director, writer and actors and still get recognition worldwide, but in the current state of affairs, if you don’t get a Scarlett Johansson, Christian Bale or Antonio Banderas to make your film, you’ll probably only get known domestically. As a bonus, they’ll probably deliver at least a decent performance, as did Banderas and Strong.
Besides them, we have Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed as well-known names, although I’m not sure how well-known was Riz Ahmed at the time. Regardless, he does a phenomenal job. Freida Pinto does decently as well, with the small time she has on-screen.
As positive surprises for me, we have the protagonist Tahar Rahim, and in the role of a rescued slave, Liya Kebede. I didn’t know them previously and their performances pleased me.
Lastly, I believe aspects such as cinematography and the score can elevate an average movie to a higher degree, but that’s not the case with Black Gold at all. Both cinematography and score are very average and unremarkable, a synthesis of the film itself.
The movie is the definition of mediocre. Every single aspect of it is “not great, not terrible”. However, I doubt even a worst American movie would bomb in the box office so much, just because racism. “Black Gold” A.K.A. “Day of the Falcon” 2 and a half out of five.
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