Hollywood Saves the Planet – USA

Feb 2006
A wave of political films with strong social messages are expected to sweep next month’s Oscars. Most of them are funded by billionaire Jeff Skoll, who aims to turn movie goers into political activists.

“We don’t want to preach to anyone. We just want to keep opening discussions”, explains George Clooney. His film, ‘Syriana’ – which examines how America’s hunger for oil has warped its foreign policy — is leading the charge of the ‘message movies.’ “There are now millions of people thinking about the issue of oil in a way they didn’t previously because of Syriana”, boasts producer Jeff Skoll. Having made billions founding ebay, Skoll is now using his money to fund political films. He’s also behind ‘Goodnight and Good Luck’, which looks at how civil liberties are eroded by threats to national security and ‘North Country’, tackling sexual discrimination. “The power of film is incredibly profound. If stories are well told, people will want to get involved”, he reasons. With each of his political films, Skoll teams up with lobbyists to push for change. Syriana’s director, Steve Gaghan, is ambivalent about this lobbying. “I would keep politics out of art.” But for Clooney, it’s enough that Hollywood is engaging with important issues. “People are sitting around tables and talking about political issues again.”

Produced by SBS/Dateline
Distributed by Journeyman Pictures

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