“What’s surprising is their influence,” admits the director of a documentary about the country.
This emirate of the Arabian Peninsula, where billions of eyes will gather during the soccer World Cup, is the subject of an unprecedented documentary by director Alfred de Montesquiou. A film that follows the particularly rapid and profitable development of a country of 2.5 million people, including only 300,000 native Qataris.
Franceinfo: Was it difficult for you to make a documentary about Qatar?
Alfred de Monstesquiou : Qatar is ambiguous. They are advised well enough and introduced to France in high circles that they know the rules of the game, they are past the stage of telling you no when they want something, even if they don’t like it. They have a lot of leverage. Specifically to control access to certain people.
For some very obscure reason, connected to your own court intrigues and power relations within the royal family, you may meet such and such a person, but you don’t know why. The main difficulty is to find the word free, because it is not a democracy. Moreover, it is a very clan and a very small country, everyone knows each other. If you go off the rails a little, after three days everyone knows. You tell them “There is a serious human rights problem, there is a serious problem of death at work” and they answer you: “No, not at all, it’s a legend, go see our labor minister, he will answer you.” You go to the minister and you’re treated to a great slang session.
What attracted you the most during the shoot?
Obviously, there are a few things that stand out to me. I have been covering the Arab-Muslim world for 20 years, and during these years I have mostly seen countries that are collapsing: Iraq, Libya, Sudan with Darfur, and here we are facing such a country for thirty years. an extraordinary success story. It’s a frustrating country with many flaws, but still an incredible success compared to the region. To my surprise, they actually give us a magnifying glass. This country is a caricature of ourselves. This is a country of unbridled ultra-capitalism, above ground, with glaring social injustices, incredible environmental aberrations, but they are better at our own game than we are, they play globalization better than we do: all in all – the power of money, omnipotence. omnipotence of communication, imagery. Because they are so rich, they buy whatever they find attractive or useful in the West.
But what really draws attention is their influence. Especially among politicians and different think tanks in France. This is incredible. The worse the public image of Qatar, the more loved it is when it is in the financial, political and diplomatic elite. The elite never talk bad about this country because everyone needs them. The Ministry of Defense adores them because they sell them air, the Ministry of Industry because they sell them subways and trams. I’ve never seen a break like this. I paddled to find experts in France who speak fluently about Qatar! Even now, for the promotion of my film, it is complicated. The private media avoids talking about the emirate, because all the sports press, for example, PSG, is in dire need. Qatar owns 17% of the Lagardère group, which owns newspapers such as Paris-Match. Sunday newspaperEurope 1.
But even if Qatar has no capitalist ties to newspapers or television, for example, its 17% ownership of Volkswagen is enough to fend off criticism: Can you imagine Volkswagen’s weight as a private media advertiser? Qatar figured out how to hack our system. They figured out how to make themselves attractive and how to draw. They really feel that we are in sales.
Is France the main target country?
Yes. They identified France as the weak link. The country with the highest return on investment. That is, a country that is still in the UN Security Council and is easy to invest in. They invested 30 billion euros in France. These funds are deployed both for financial gain and geopolitical influence.
Where is this 30 billion euros?
They have big hotels in Paris, they have big stakes in Total, Veolia, Vinci. They have PSG, which they bought for 100 million, but left for 500 million. France has 20 billion of Qatari public money and 10 billion of private money.
Qatar is very jealous of its neighbors…
Yes, and the main question of my film was exactly this: Why does Qatar want to shine completely? Is this a vacuity, or is there a deeper, more pressing motive? Because this is what makes the neighbors jealous. While making the film, I tried to understand this and I could see that Qatari affairs are not just pride, but something deeper than that. For example, this Football World Cup is entirely available for the Emirates. Because being on the international stage means making oneself invulnerable. Ultimately, it’s about protecting yourself from your neighbors at the local level, who have only one desire: to crush you.
Because you should know that the trauma of Qataris is Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. And as a result, Qatar said to itself: we cannot occupy the country that is hosting the World Cup of football. We cannot invade a country with the largest American base in the region, as well as a huge Turkish base. Now, in addition, Russia has become the first gas exporter after the gas embargo.
Does the World Cup really have geopolitical weight?
Yes, it is existential for them. In a sense, they have already won at the international level. Unless, of course, a tragedy such as an attack or riot occurs during the World Cup, because there could be major problems in managing the flow of spectators. According to experts, they are not ready to deal with a million viewers. In any case, except for one big “hiccup”, this small country, completely unknown to the battalion 20 years ago, will attract the attention of billions of people. This is a real geopolitical victory.