Last year, we sat on seat edge watching the gripping dramatisation of the true story of Captain Philips, victim of Somali pirate invasion and real life hero, starring Tom Hanks. This year, it’s time for the pirates to have their say in this equally thrilling film by Cutter Hodierne, Fishing Without Nets. Named after the cutter-rigged sailboat his parents bought just before he was born, Cutter Hordierne’s very name illustrates the importance Somalians place on fishing and in his impressive debut feature he explores this cultural theme to its darkest edges.
Originating as a short at Sundance Film Festival, the feature was picked up by Sundance Screenwriters Lab and VICE, resulting in a slickly edited and gritty drama – and some great promise from this young director. Cast from locals while on location in Kenya along with actors from the original short, Fishing Without Nets is bestowed with a engrossing realism as we follow the young fisherman Abdi from his happy home with wife and son to the shady world of piracy.
Struggling to support his family, Abdi joins a group of pirates to set sail for the shipping lanes in the hopes of capturing a foreign cargo ship to reap the rewards. Instead, the inexperienced group come upon a French oil tanker, boarding and taking its crew hostage as they wait for the ransom money to drop. Weeks pass, tempers fray and Abdi reflects on his new position as a gun-waving pirate. Unlike his khat-addicted shipmates, Abdi tries to retain true to his sense of his former self, befriending one of the French captives as the violence and tension rises around them.
Part of the festival’s Debate strand, Fishing Without Nets cleverly raises the inherent issues behind Somali piracy, from foreigners intruding on the fishing trade that was once owned by the local fishermen to smuggling and the temptation of ‘easy money’ that can be found in crime as young men struggle to provide for their family. Written largely based on the real life of Abdikani Muktar, who plays our engrossing lead, Abdi, there is a real sense authenticity to his plight. With this realism, we find ourselves sympathising and moving on-side to the troubled fishermen before realising we are forgetting the brutality that fuels these acts of piracy.
A very distant cousin of last year’s blockbuster, Fishing Without Nets is a provocative and tense examination of the moral decisions faced by young Somalis before the all-too tempting descent into piracy.
Fishing Without Nets is screening on Sun 19 October (Ritzy Cinema)