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SHEFFIELD DOC FEST 2021

Review: Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight

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- Nick Green’s documentary reveals how the former CEO of Renault-Nissan escaped house arrest in Japan by fleeing to Lebanon

Review: Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight

In December 2019, Carlos Ghosn – the former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance charged with various financial crimes – stunned the world by fleeing Japan in an escape which filmmakers claim is worthy of a Hollywood thriller. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for that as it was a documentary by Nick Green, part of the BBC's usually excellent Storyville strand, that world premiered in the Into the World strand at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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tells the audience what to expect and what the stakes are right off the bat — presuming correctly that many of the audience will wonder why they should care about an apparently dastardly capitalist, who isn’t exactly the most sympathetic of characters. So, there are two big questions: what triggered Ghosn's spectacular fall from industry leader to international fugitive? And, how did he escape from house arrest in Japan to flee to Beirut, where he now resides?

Surprisingly the answers are largely given by Ghosn, interviewed for the film in September 2020 where he pushes the line that he is the collateral damage of a battle between France and Japan over the future of Nissan. Also, he claims he is innocent. Green gives this some play in a film that suggests that nothing is exactly as it seems.

The film suggests that Ghosn could be an unreliable narrator. An interview with the Japanese prosecutor slams Ghosn. The film, however, is remarkably sympathetic to Ghosn. The prosecutors’ 99.4% success rate isn’t used to show that the investigators are thorough before they charge someone, but that the system might be unjust. This view is given further credence by an intertitle informing us that the United Nations condemned the length of time that Ghosn had been detained.

Ghosn tells of how he flew into Japan in November 2018 for around the 600th time, when he was arrested. Born in Brazil, he grew up in Lebanon with his mother and grandmother. He glosses over his father's conviction for murdering a priest in Sawfar, Lebanon in 1960. The version he prefers is that, as a Brazilian growing up in Beirut, "I'm used to being an outsider." An "outsider" who was part of the jet-set walking the red carpet at Cannes. He tells us how his career ruined his first marriage. There are interviews with his second and current wife, Carole Nahas, whom he married in 2016, but what his first wife has to say might have been far more interesting.

The film is all geared up to the big reveal of how Ghosn escaped, but by the time we get there, the formulaic documentary style combined with the unlikeable character of Ghosn make it difficult to care. In any case, the revelation of how Ghosn achieved the impossible mission is no Man on Wire.

Green does throw in more of a questioning attitude towards the end of the film. Other men, such as Ghosn's former right-hand man at Nissan Greg Kelly, are still in the dock. A father-and-son team who facilitated the escape have also been arrested. Ghosn doesn't talk about them for fear of incriminating them. He also makes clear that the case shows there is one rule for the superrich and another for the rest of us.

While it's true that Green has delivered an even-handed version of the story, the film would have benefitted from a stronger editorial line or a massive reveal proving his guilt or innocence one way or another.

Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight is a French, UK, Lebanese and Saudi production by Alef One, BBC Storyville and MBC Studios.

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