January 6, 2018 – This is one of several great stories about journalists this year, along with “The Post,” “City of Ghosts,” “Nowhere to Hide,” “Human Flow” and others. This drama, based on a true story, is about an untrained journalist who wanted a career so bad he risked his life to go where even spies dared not go in order to get a story nobody else was covering.
Jay Bahadur (played by Evan Peters of “X-Men: Apocalypse”) graduated from college, after studying history, economics and political science in 2007, just in time to get caught in the economic downturn caused by the U.S. banking collapse of 2008. Working as a lowly market researcher, Jay dreams of being a journalist. His plan is to go to Harvard to study journalism.
A chance encounter with a renowned journalist, Seymour Tolbin (played by Al Pacino of “Ocean's Thirteen”) changes his mind. Tolbin tells Jay, “fuck Harvard!” He tells Jay to learn by doing. Go someplace crazy and get a story that nobody else is covering because you'd have to be crazy to go there.
Jay sees a TV report on Somali pirates capturing ships and holding hostages on board for ransom. The only thing he knows about Somalia comes from a college research paper he once did on a Somali election. Taking Tolbin's advice, he does all the research he can on Somali and makes contact with people in Somali media. He lucks out, getting support from the son of the Somali president who works at a radio station.
Borrowing $500 from his parents, he flies around the world from his native Canada to Somalia, where he meets the Somali president and his son. They set him up in a guarded compound and provide him with an interpreter, Abdi (played by Barkhad Abdi of “Eye in the Sky” who is also a real Somali native). The idea that Jay sells to the Somalis is that he will write a book which will tell westerners good things about Somalia.
The trouble is, he has no book deal, and he has no outlet at all for his writing. The only commitment he has is from a publisher who promises to look at his material and maybe publish something if the editor likes what he writes. He also has very little money and is not being paid by anyone.
Jay's main problem is danger. He could be kidnapped, hurt or killed at any time. Trying to deal with pirates is a risky business. He learns early on that the pirates won't even talk to him unless he provides them with drugs, which are sold in open markets as a matter of course. He is attracted to a woman who sells drugs at a market stand, Maryan (Sabrina Hassan of “Eye in the Sky”). She turns out to be a wife of the leader of a band of pirates.
Jay doggedly continues with his risky plan, and gradually starts getting interviews with influential pirates, but is still getting nowhere with a book deal. As he runs out of money, he tries to get on board a ship taken by pirates to get video of the hostages. He is told that the CBS network will pay $1,000 for such footage. He nearly gets killed in the attempt to get the video.
While the story does seem a bit laid back and comedic for such a serious subject, it is entertaining and well-acted by Evan Peters, Al Pacino and Barkhad Abdi. One ironic scene in this film has to do with the Somali pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009. This incident was dramatized in the movie “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks as the ship's captain and Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the hijackers. “Captain Phillips” is the film that made Barkhad Abdi a star and it also led to his appearance in “Pirates of Somalia.” This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.