×

Sundance Film Review: ‘Fishing Without Nets’

Cutter Hodierne makes an accomplished feature debut with this very well-crafted, empathetic hijacking drama.

With:

Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abdulwhali Faarah, Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim, Eric Godon. (English, Somali, French dialogue)

Those who thought the pirates’ p.o.v. was neglected in “Captain Phillips” and “A Hijacking” may find the insights they were hoping for in “Fishing Without Nets.” This accomplished feature debut for director/co-scenarist Cutter Hodierne (expanding his 2012 Sundance grand jury prize-winning short of the same name) follows an oil tanker’s hijacking and its aftermath through the primary viewpoint of a young Somali who’s reluctantly taken part. Very well crafted, empathetic drama should ride the coattails of its similarly themed predecessors to solid sales and decent niche biz in numerous territories.

Upstanding, pious Abdi (Abdikani Muktar) comes from generations of fishermen. But now the nearby waters are polluted, and fish are scarce; years of war and famine have done the rest. Desperate to provide a better life for his beloved wife and son, he has them smuggled out of the country, but there’s no money left for him to follow. Ergo, he eventually becomes susceptible to an acquaintance’s siren song of untold riches if he joins a hijacking party. (He’s solicited because while fishing, he’s grown familiar with the nearest shipping lanes for international vessels.) Despite his strong distaste for the idea of signing on with killers and thieves — what would his late father have thought? — he caves at last.

The heavily armed pirates soon come across a rusty old commercial tanker that’s worth nothing much itself, and currently bears no cargo. So its only “valuables” are the crew, who are taken hostage while the lead hijackers negotiate long-distance with their European employers. Not wanting to keep all the presumably highest-price-tagged white captives in one place, the captain (Eric Godon) is left on ship while younger Victor (Reda Kateb) is dragged to a shanty village, where Abdi becomes his minder — and the only person who seems to think of the Frenchman as a fellow human being. But as things drag on and no ransom delivery seems to be on the immediate horizon, their frail friendship is imperiled and worse by hotheaded, often hopped-up Blackie (Abdi Siad), who’d as soon kill both as have his patience tried further.

It’s a tale that only gets bleaker; even Abdi’s loved ones seem to be in danger, since when he sneaks a call to them on a stolen satellite phone, he’s instead extorted for more money via vague threats to their welfare. There’s no attempt to follow the negotiation process, which dominated “Captain Phillips” and “A Hijacking,” but here is kept offscreen. Instead the focus is strictly on the tense ground-level situation, exacerbated by language barriers and most of the pirates’ unhelpful naivete about how things can and should go.

Muktar (who also starred in the short) and Kateb (“A Prophet,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) make vividly sympathetic impressions without much dialogue, while Siad is properly alarming as one very loose cannon. All tech and design aspects here are first-rate, notably Patrick Taylor and Kevin Hilliard’s ominous score (despite an occasional excess of percussive bombast), and cinematography by Alex Disenhof (“The We and I”) that makes excellent use of the widescreen format, both on land (the pic was shot in Kenya) and at sea.

Popular on Variety

Sundance Film Review: 'Fishing Without Nets'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 17, 2014. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production:

(U.S.-Somalia-Kenya) A Vice Films production. Produced by Raphael Swann, John Hibey, Cutter Hodierne, Brian Glazen, Ben Freedman, Stephanie Pinola, Victor Shapiro. Executive producers, Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith, Rupert Wyatt, Joe LoConti. Co-producers, Ginger Wilson, Guy Wilson.

Crew:

Directed by Cutter Hodierne. Screenplay, Hodierne, John Hibey, David Burkman. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Alex Disenhof; editors, Hodierne, Dominic LaPierriere; music, Patrick Taylor, Kevin Hilliard; production designer, Naia Barrenechea; sound, Lee Smith, Giles Khan; sound designer, Tom Myers; supervising sound editor, Christopher Barnett; re-recording mixers, Myers, Barnett; assistant directors, Toby Hosking, Angie Musira.

With:

Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abdulwhali Faarah, Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim, Eric Godon. (English, Somali, French dialogue)

More Film

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

  • ‘Bears Famous Invasion’s Lorenzo Mattotti Brings

    Lorenzo Mattotti on MIA Title ‘Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily’

    Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti is no stranger to film festivals. The artist – a long-time New Yorker cover artist and onetime Lou Reed and Michelangelo Antonioni collaborator – has designed posters for past editions of Venice and Cannes, and has contributed to films that played in Toronto and Rome. This year, however, he experienced the festival [...]

  • Dreamworks Abominable

    'Abominable' Release in Malaysia Abandoned

    Plans to release the increasingly controversial Chinese-U.S. co-produced animation film “Abominable” in Malaysia have been dropped after the distributor said that it would not be cut to cater to political sensitivities. The film includes a scene which depicts a map showing the South China Sea and the so called “nine-dash line” that China uses to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content