TORONTO - George Clooney says the storm devastation wrought in Houston is akin to the damage suffered in war-torn Syria.
The movie star made the analogy at a press conference to promote his latest directorial effort, “Suburbicon,” at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Clooney urged people to help Houston residents still reeling from the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, declaring: “Houston is Syria, quite honestly.”
The movie star said victims of the storm are now refugees “based on something that had nothing to do with them.”
He also expressed concern for those in Florida, where a Category 4 hurricane plowed through the Florida Keys hours earlier with 215 km/h winds.
It would later be downgraded to a Category 2 storm, but by Sunday morning an estimated 127,000 people had already been forced to shelters statewide while rain knocked out power to more than one million customers.
Talk turned political early on in Sunday's press conference, where Clooney and stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Karimah Westbrook freely delved into current events.
“People in Houston are now refugees based on something that had nothing to do with them,” Clooney said of the disaster, which devastated much of Texas, caused at least 60 deaths and up to US$180 billion in damage.
“They didn't do anything. They are now victims. And they are out of their homes and they're going to be suffering for a long time. And much like the people and children in Syria we are going to have to find ways to be involved. That is our job as citizens of the world and all of us are going to find our ways to do that.”
Moore agreed, wondering what it will take to “get beyond tribalism and nationalism and think of ourselves as human beings of the world.”
“This is happening everywhere, where people are being forced out of their homes and their nations and are looking for a place to go,” said Moore.
“And the only way we can help each other is by eradicating all of those borders and thinking globally.”
Racial tensions, rather than natural disasters, are what rip people apart in “Suburbicon,” set in idyllic 1950s suburbia.
The white neighbourhood explodes in racial violence when a black family moves in, a plot point inspired by a real incident in Levittown, Pa., in 1957.
Clooney, who co-wrote the dark satire with longtime collaborator Grant Heslov and Joel and Ethan Coen, couldn't help but note the parallels to recent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and said the cast “just felt sick” when it came time to portray especially racially charged scenes.
The Toronto International Film Festival wraps Sept. 17.