Sundance Film Review: Fishing Without Nets

Posted January 21, 2014 in
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Photo: Alex Disenhof

Fishing Without Nets
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Cutter Hodierne

While Paul Greengrass was celebrating Oscar nominations for his over $200 million blockbuster hit Captain Phillips, 27-year-old Cutter Hodierne sat in a movie theater in Park City, Utah next to Abdikani Muktar and Abubakr Mirre, two of the Somalian leads in his debut feature film, Fishing Without Nets—both of whom were seeing snow for the first time here at Sundance. What started as a short film that took home the Jury Prize two years ago at the festival was picked up by VICE Media for funding and has become a full-length masterpiece that deserves every single one of Greengrass’ Academy nominations, plus some. I compare the two because the premise is similar: Somali pirates capture an oil tanker and hold the crew captive pending a ransom. Hodierne doesn’t focus on the plight of a bloated American captain, though—Fishing Without Nets reflects the new generation of filmmakers who think outside the box in terms of perspective, focusing on characters Hollywood keeps on the sidelines and revealing rich stories where the white guy doesn’t swoop in to save the day. Where Captain Phillips lacked the character development necessary to keep the slow parts interesting, Fishing Without Nets never wavers in intensity without having to resort to fast-cut action sequences and touches on poetic devices and anti-hero conflicts that give it satisfying layers to think through. The film grabs a hold of your attention from the first scene as the lead character, Abdi, walks through his village backed by beats and breathing that almost sound like someone fucking on a creaky bed. Voiceover narration lends it a documentary-type style at times, and the dialogue (Somali with English subtitles) is completely on-point and reflective of a writer who understands poetry: "I’m a fisherman and I’m afraid to drown"—incredibly impressive considering that the actors oftentimes improvised the lines after Hodierne would describe the scene for them with the help of a translator. "I used a lot of physicality and acting to express to the actors what was needed in a scene," he says in a Q&A in the press notes. "Somali is a rhythmic language and the translator helped get the actors to use the right rhythm and tone to capture everything." The stand-out actor in this case is Abdikani Muktar, discovered during an informal casting session in Kenya, and whose real life experience as a young father and head of his family were used to help write his part as the lead. VICE made a great decision by backing Hodierne—and I hope there’s a lot more to come. If you see one film at the festival, make it Fishing Without Nets.

Screenings:

Time: 1.23 9:45 PM Venue: Eccles Theatre, Park City
Time: 1.24 11 AM Venue: The MARC, Park City

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