Syriana, Participant Productions, and Changing This World.

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the New York Times when I stumbled upon an amazing article. By now, everyone knows how I feel about my New York Times. Anyway, I think it was a weekend issue and therefore the articles seemed longer and the Arts section seemed more plump. I love a fat Art section.

The article was titled Want Stealth With That? The ‘Fast Food Nation’ Film Goes Undercover. I’d link to it today, but it’s old enough to have moved into the Pay For the PDF Section. Nevertheless, the article was about a Richard Linklater’s new film based on the book by Eric Schlosser called Fast Food Nation.

The part that really stood out to me, however, was the fact that Jeff Skoll, former Ebay founder, was backing production on this film. Not only is he backing production, but he’s specifically targeting movies that “Direct Reel Change.” His recent projects include North Country, Good Night, And Good Luck, Murderball and Syriana.

It’s my understanding that his organization, Participant Productions was created to help educate people, namely Americans, about politics and social issues.

Skoll states:

‘We don’t want the issues that are raised in the movie to be seen and then forgotten,’’ Skoll said. ‘We hope people will see it and go, “Maybe I shouldn’t be driving an SUV.” The non-profit organizations keep those ideas alive, and it becomes a virtuous cycle: The movie helps the non-profits, and the non-profits help the movie. In Hollywood, the system has not catered to those kinds of projects. We’re trying to help the system.’

Last night, Toby Joe and went to see Syriana at the Angelika Film Center in New York City. The theater was packed. We were more than a half an hour before show time and we were already halfway back in line. Some of the production crew was there handing out questionnaires. We were to answer them and turn them in after the movie.

While I do not have any intention to write about the specifics of the film, I do want to say that I hope all of America makes it out this holiday season to see it. In the end, this film does what people like Michael Moore should have done: It makes you question everything around you. It makes you feel anger and resentment, but most importantly, it leaves you with this overwhelming desire to make a difference. The movie, at times, gave me a feeling of helplessness, having just watched corruption run so deep that there is no foreseeable bottom in sight. But just when you’re about to throw up your arms with one big “I Give Up!” you’re given the opportunity to make a difference by way of online communities, organizations, and by spreading the word. The cast, the crew, and the producers used the medium in a remarkably powerful manner. It’s a call to action I am passionate about pursuing.

Skoll changed the world when he created Ebay. I can only hope that his recent endeavor does the exact same.

Updated to add: Toby Joe and I just saw a recent trailer for Syriana. It’s changed since having seen the movie. I get the feeling that based on some of the feedback received from the questionnaires, they adjusted the final version. One weakness during our viewing seems to have been “fixed” or answered in the trailer we’re seeing on television now. I have a feeling the version that will be released on the 9th of December will be different from the one we saw on Wednesday. Which pretty much means we’ll be seeing this on the big screen once more.


  1. Happy Thanksgiving Mihow!


  2. It would appear that the critics aren’t really digging Syriana that much. We’ll see what happens when it’s released nationwide. :/


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