Documentary: Big Men (2013). Written and directed by Rachel Boynton, this documentary follows a small group of American explorers, led by CEO Jim Musselman, of Dallas-based oil company Kosmos Energy. The two quotes that open the film immediately inform the viewer what will follow.
“Tell me, is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? … What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.”
~ Milton Friedman, the most influential economist of the latter half of the 20th century
“As long as there’s no find, the noble brotherhood will last. But when the piles of god begin to grow … that’s when the trouble starts.”
~ Howard, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 
With independent access, Big Men’s two-person crew filmed inside the oil company as Kosmos and its partners discovered and developed the first commercial oil field in Ghana’s history. Christened the Jubilee Field, this deposit had the potential to return a staggering $22 billion to investors.
The unprecedented access provides viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what happens when business and politics mix during a clash of cultures.
Interestingly, as Boynton tells the story of new oil in Ghana, she also tells the story of Nigeria, and its old oil, through conversations with locals and politicians. As you might guess, Nigeria’s experience has not gone well. Long after oil was discovered in that country the average citizen is no better off. Unfortunately, the country is a poster child for the resource curse.
Along with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, a film I first watched in an ethics class while pursuing my MBA, this documentary shines a bright light on the ugly side of capitalism and provides a stark reminder of why avarice is one of the seven deadly sins.
Big Men is available for streaming on Netflix and other services. Check out the film’s website for more information. By the way, if you’ve never seen The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, find a version and check it out, particularly if you are a fan of classic movies. There was a period during the mid-90s when I started viewing all the Humphrey Bogart movies I could get my hands on and this movie, along with The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, is among my favorites.