Mohammed Al Turki

My 5 Minutes with the President

A former member of a leading Saudi Arabian oil-and-gas company, Mohammed Al Turki turned from energy to entertainment when he took on the executive producer role in the upcoming Nicholas Jarecki film, “Arbitrage,” starring Hollywood heavyweights Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. “Arbitrage” is a thrilling drama about a hedge-fund billionaire trying desperately to sell his business empire before secrets about the true state of his investments get out, while simultaneously dealing with the accidental death of his mistress.

While Turki avidly pursues his passion for film as a producer on multiple projects in progress, he also continues what is a family legacy in international philanthropy. He is active in the Saudi Cancer Foundation, the Saudi Charitable Foundation for Promoting Organ Donation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Steve Irwin Sea Shepherd and amfAR.

 “Arbitrage” opens in theaters today.

ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?  

MOHAMMED AL TURKI: Well, being from the Middle East, I would discuss foreign policy as a key issue. I would go over cultural exchange as a key element in bridging gaps between East and West. Personally, as a filmmaker, I would discuss the arts as a creative tool to enhance relations between the United States and the Middle East.

 RB: If you could give President Obama one piece of advice, what would that be? 

 MAT: To help support a more positive image in media of people from the Middle Eastern region. We live in a world that is so quick to judge people by where they come from, and I’d like to see more positive examples represented. Moreover, I think the American audience should watch Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” which raises the issue of racial profiling and ethnicity issues in a post-9/11 world. I also strongly recommend the Bollywood hit “I Am Khan,” and the first feature film I worked on, Zeina Durra’s “The Imperialists Are Still Alive!”

RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be?

MAT: Would he ever consider acting? I think he’d be pretty good.

RB: What book would you offer to lend President Obama? Why?

MAT: I’d like to think Obama reads enough books; he is, after all, the president. But for entertainment value I’d suggest How to Win Friends and Influence People — great book.

RB: If you were going to send the president to one place in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why? 

MAT: I’d probably send him to one of the small towns I’ve visited in the heartland of America while we were on location for Ramin Bahrani’s film, “At Any Price.” I got the chance to have an insightful view on the struggles of farmers in America and the dilemmas they face. I’d like to see those voices heard and acknowledged.

RB: Would you ever consider a political career? 

MAT: Not at the moment. Filmmaking is my only outlet, and there are plenty of politics involved! However, I’m happy to have a role in supporting the U.S. film industry and its diversity.

Robin Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. She produced the feature film “Poliwood,” airing on Showtime, and edited the recently published book Art & Soul. Bronk pens this weekly column with assistance from Risa Kotek.