'Black Gold': Mildly entertaining but inaccurate
Recently I had the rather dubious pleasure of watching "Black Gold", a film co-produced by the Doha Film Institute and shot in Qatar, which tells the story of two emirs battling over the discovery of oil as a young leader emerges to unite the desert tribes. Throughout the movie, a lot of focus was put on the very interesting question of what expatriate oil companies could bring to a traditional society.
Overall, however, the movie was disappointing with all the unoriginality of a typical Hollywood project. It was a discomforting experience, watching a story unfold on the big screen with so many of the scenes failing to represent the essence of the region, many times to the point of being insulting.
The film was mildly entertaining in a Hollywood way but inaccurate in its representation of traditional Arabs. That is not to say that it was completely devoid of accomplishments. "Black Gold" offers a narrative of our story from this part of the world, not as accurate as could be hoped, but nonetheless communicating to the world in a way that, frankly, we have sometimes failed to do here in the UAE. What struck me particularly was the hero's last scene, which discussed how the Qatari tribes should learn from their expatriate guests and vice versa.
Every developed nation that has achieved success in the areas of security, infrastructure and governance follows this cooperative model. It is the foundation of what we are practising in the UAE through cross-cultural relations. We are building a nation and learning from the experiences of many others that are represented by their citizens in the UAE. The magnitude of the national development project means that we must continually research the successes and failures of other countries to find the most practical way forward.
One of the many advantages of being a newly developed country is being able to study the experiences of other nations to learn from their progress. And what better way to bring this information to the country than through the intellect and talent from all over the world that has been attracted to the idea of the UAE? In many cases, expatriates are successfully transferring their knowledge and experiences to the benefit of both private and government organisations.
Anyone who has worked in the UAE knows that organisations are constantly updating their procedures and work flow to improve their standards - sometimes to the point of exhaustion it seems. Emiratis, and expatriates who have been here for more than 10 or 15 years, know how much the country has changed, and how privileged we are to be part of this process of continual improvement.
However, much of the wealth of experience that is available from expatriates is being lost because of the lack of knowledge transfer in many organisations. In my experience, I have seen companies make the same mistakes over and over again because knowledge transfer is not a priority or is poorly implemented. Companies exert massive efforts to create a project or business plan that will shine, but then fail to stop and reflect whether we are learning from these efforts.
As I have written before, I firmly believe that we cannot succeed as a nation unless citizens are fully integrated into every industry. As in any country, citizens have to be deeply immersed in every project so that the unique national perspective and knowledge are both represented and developed.
This is where government could have a greater role. A single government entity in Abu Dhabi could be tasked with overseeing this transfer of knowledge. This entity would have the responsibility of documenting accomplishments as well as failures in this process of trial and error that has taken us this far. That body of knowledge and experience could then be disseminated across companies and institutions as a manual of success, transparent and available for all.
The UAE has often led the way in generating innovative ideas and solutions that have been shared with other countries in the Gulf region. But every GCC country has had its own success stories.
We have seen how the collaborative approach has worked for the Gulf, from the rather fanciful depiction seen in "Black Gold" to the reality of the present day. This is not just some Hollywood movie about the 1930s, but the framework for national development in the future.
This approach to collaborative knowledge-sharing, with the full support of the government, is to the benefit not only of the UAE, but of the region. At a national level, I am sure our neighbours can offer knowledge of great value as well.
Taryam Al Subaihi is social affairs commentator specialising in corporate communications. The National