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'Fishing Without Nets,' Somali Pirates Story

Hollywood directors often make films about people who get persuaded to take part in a crime because they need money. There is a new look to this old story in a film called Fishing Without Nets. This time, the central character is a Somali fisherman who cannot support his family. And the crime is piracy – attacking ships on the high seas.

In Fishing Without Nets, a fisherman named Abdi cannot earn enough because pollution has killed off much of the catch he needs to feed his family. Then a friend talks to him about helping a group of pirates and he joins. The pirates capture a French oil ship and take the international crew hostage. They hope to get a huge payment when they free the crew.

Abdi: “I’m fisherman.”

Hostage: “No, you’re not fisherman. You are pirate.”

Cutter Hodierne directed the film. It is his first full-length movie. News about Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean had caught his interest. He was especially fascinated by the subject from the viewpoint of the gunmen.

“I just was so intrigued by what would lead somebody to that point of doing something so desperate and also so kind of audacious.

In 2010, at age 24, Cutter Hodierne went to Kenya and made a shorter version of Fishing Without Nets. He used Somali refugees to play the parts. These untrained actors included day laborers, fishermen and truck drivers. They were all living in Mombasa, Kenya at the time.

“We would set up these informal auditions in restaurants and just like hangouts where Somalis would sit around and chew khat and drink tea, and we would audition people there.”

The short film won a Sundance Festival grand jury prize. At that point, Vice Media provided two million dollars to finance a feature-length version of the film.

It was filmed again in Mombasa with many of the same Somali non-actors. Again, they invented their own speeches. Mr. Hodierne used a translator – a language expert – to tell them only basic facts about what should happen in each scene.

“So, they knew what was going to happen within a scene, and then they would improvise all the dialogue (talk) within that scene, so that it was in their voice. And they were amazing at that; they added so much to it that I couldn’t have written on a page, so I consider them almost co-writers of the movie.”

Mr. Hodierne likes to describe Fishing Without Nets as an action film for theaters that show artistic films. He says the “unlikely combination of suspense and reflectiveness” works well.

One critic described the movie with words like “powerful, deliberate and absolutely beautiful.”

The full-length film won a grand jury directing award at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. It will be released to some theaters in the United States and then available on video-on demand.

I’m Jeri Watson.

*This report was based on a story from VOA’s Carolyn Weaver in New York. Jeri Watson wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this Story

persuaded - v., caused to do something by reasoning or argument

piracy n., the act of attacking and stealing a ship at sea

pirates n., people who attack and steal a ship at sea

viewpoint n., a way of looking or thinking about something

audacious adj., very bold and surprising and shocking

khatn., the source of a stimulant when chewed or used as tea

scene - n., a division or act in a play during which the action takes place in a single place without a break in time

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