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About The Film
Syriana was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, winner of the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Traffic. Gaghan started thinking about the machinations of the global oil industry while doing research for that earlier film. He had met a host of powerful people in Washington, including those at the Pentagon who enforce America's anti-narcotics policies. It was then that he began noticing some interesting parallels between the trafficking of drugs and the power plays of the oil industry.

"At that time,” says Gaghan, "the Pentagon's anti-terrorism and anti- narcotics branches were the same branch. And I started thinking that maybe the biggest addiction in our country is how we're hooked on cheap foreign oil. And that our easy access to oil is what gives us a good deal of our edge.”

When Traffic director Steven Soderbergh, actor/producer George Clooney and their production company, Section Eight, introduced Gaghan to See No Evil, a memoir written by former CIA agent Robert Baer, it was a perfect way for Gaghan to develop this interest. The book chronicles Baer's experiences working out of the Middle East as a case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations from 1976 to 1997. "Steve Gaghan once said to me that he thought oil was the world's crack addiction,” says Soderbergh, "and I knew he would find a novel way of exploring that idea.”

While the book provided the initial impetus for Syriana, Baer's experiences as a CIA field officer are what really served as a jumping-off point for the broader story that the filmmakers wanted to tell. "The book itself was fascinating,” says Clooney, "and the more time we spent with it, the more we discovered there was actually another story to be told beyond the one in the book. We saw the potential for Syriana to be made in the fashion of the films of the mid-60s and early 70s that were willing to discuss the failures of government as if they were failures of all of us, not just a particular party or group.”

"I think what we've done is preserve the essence of Bob, even though his storyline is fictional,” Gaghan says. "He also helped me understand the web of players in the Middle East and in the oil business that ultimately led to the choice to tell this story through multiple narratives.”

Gaghan researched the film for a year before beginning work on the screenplay, investigating the inner workings of the industry in the United States, as well as journeying to the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Lebanon, Syria, Dubai, and North Africa to speak with people at every level of the power chain that makes up the petroleum industry.

Bob Baer himself took Gaghan to explore the regions of the Middle East where he worked gathering intelligence for 21 years, introducing the director to a multitude of figures that exist on all sides of the industry, including oil traders, CIA operatives, arms dealers, and the leader of the Islamic movement Hezbollah. "I discovered really hospitable people with very articulate points of view,” says Gaghan of his travels. "I found that if you ask the same question to five different people, you get five different stories – and it's still not the whole story. Starting from there, I tried to focus in on how this whole world of clandestine information worked.”

After his intensive travel and study, Gaghan began work on the screenplay, in which he would weave together multiple independent storylines that illuminate the inner workings of the industry and the figures who keep it running, whether through the wielding of their considerable influence, the force of their will or the exploitation of their labor.

The filmmakers' chief intent was to tell a compelling story that also reflected the complexity and ambiguity of our current situation – one that that explores<

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