Toronto: George Clooney Says "Houston is Syria" Post-Hurricane Harvey

George Clooney at the 74th Venice Film Festival

"They're out of their homes and will be suffering for a long time," the 'Suburbicon' director said of Texans left homeless and vulnerable like Syrian refugees.

As George Clooney joins efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, and Irma rips through Florida, the Hollywood star on Sunday likened Americans left homeless by catastrophic weather events to Syrians caught up in their country's civil war.

"It's going to take a long time... And we'll all have to be involved, because Houston is Syria," Clooney said during a press conference for Suburbicon, which is screening this week at the Toronto Film Festival after bowing in Venice. "People in Houston are now refugees based on something that had nothing to do with them. They didn't do anything. They're now victims and they're out of their homes and they will be suffering for a very long time," he added. 

Harvey slammed into Texas' Gulf Coast on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane. It was soon downgraded to a tropical storm but lingered for days, dropping up to 50 inches of rain on Houston and the surrounding area before moving eastward to Louisiana.

"We're going to have to find ways to get involved, that's our jobs as citizens of the world," Clooney said. The Hollywood star in Suburbicon directs Matt Damon and Julianne Moore as a couple in over their heads with a dastardly plan in a caustic satire from Paramount and co-writers Joel and Ethan Coen.

Moore, also in Toronto to help promote the film, said humanitarian crises like in Syria and hurricane-ravaged Texas and Florida reminded Americans they need to come together to help one another. "This is happening everywhere, with people being forced out of their homes and their nations and are looking for places to go. The only way we can help each other is by eradicating all these borders and thinking globally," she said.

Co-star Damon said Suburbicon, a drama about very flawed people making very bad choices in a seemingly idyllic 1950s community, also has resonance with the Trump era. "You never know when you're making a movie. A lot of these current events, we couldn't have predicted," he said.

A movie inspired by the true-life story of African-Americans who were harassed by their white neighbors to get them to move out of their Levittown, Pennsylvania community in the 1950s will inevitably be over-shadowed by recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Damon suggested.

"Everything was there, but the lid hadn't been torn off yet. And it seems like this presidency has reinvigorated this certain element, and emboldened them to step out into the open," Damon said of Trump's defiant comments about alt-right provocateurs in the wake of the Virginia tragedy. 

The U.S. president stirred controversy when he initially declined to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose demonstration against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statute had led to violence and the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville.

The Toronto Film Festival runs through Sept. 17.

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