J.R. Jones reviews a new documentary by Thymaya Payne on Somali piracy:
Payne manages to show how Somali piracy fits into a larger pattern of exploitation linking the poor tribal state and the industrialized world. Since the civil war, Somalis have complained about European countries dumping barrels of toxic waste on their shores (Payne includes a photograph of one hideously scarred man) and giant fishing companies poaching from their territorial waters. In fact illegal fishing is another rewarding operation for pirates, costing Somalia an estimated $300 million a year and weakening environmentalists’ efforts to protect ocean populations. Piracy historian Matthew Rafferty argues in the film that this occurs with some complicity from the same Western powers waging war on piracy in the gulf: “It’s not like Japan, France, the United States has no idea where all this fish is coming from as the prices drop, as the catches go up.” The key insight of Stolen Seas may be that, in the eyes of Somali pirates, we’re the real buccaneers.
Joshua Keating interviewed Payne about how he got access to the pirates by outsourcing much of his filming:
I started working with younger Somali reporters and stringers, who grew up with a lot of these guys. I started to realize that the best thing for me to do was actually just to give them a camera and get out of it – out of the way – and get my ego out of the way because the story wasn’t so much about me going and getting on a pirate ship. So I actually trained this young Somali guy how to like shoot a documentary film in two days at a hotel in Somaliland and then said “okay, well keep in touch.”