Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Captain and His Pirate

In 2009 a German container ship was attacked by Somali pirates. The pirates held the ship for 4 months, while the company tried to wait them out. Once the ship was released the captain, Krzysztof Kotluk, was criticized and lost his job. Andy Wolff interviewed the bitter captain in Germany and travelled to Somalia to find Ahado, the leader of the pirate and hear his side of the story. Wolff interlaces the two strands of interviewing to tell the story of those 4 months concentrating on the relationship between the captain and the leading pirate.

As Ahado explains it is a standard pirate strategy to turn the crew members against each other. In this case the pirates befriended the Tuvaluan crew and they partied and broke into containers together. The relationship also broke down between Captain Kotluk and the other German officers, leaving Krzysztof isolated and lonely. It turns out that the pirate is a better judge (and manipulator) of human relationships that the captain or crew. Ahado recognised what had happened and took pity on Krzysztof and developed a friendship with him.

This film doesn't explore why Somalia is the centre of world piracy. Nor does it explore why convoys with naval protection are not used to counter piracy (last used in a major way in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war). It is a more personal story of two men and how their worlds collided in 2009, and how they learned to respect each other. It raises, but doesn't answer the questions of why one leader failed to maintain leadership while under pressure while the other succeeded (the pressures they were under were obviously not the same). Is leadership a personal skill or a cultural construct (that will fail when the structures of that culture are weakened or removed) or is it a two way relationship between the leader and those being led (where blame for failure is shared)?

Visually The Captain and His Pirate is not a documentary that needs to be seen on the big screen but I suspect your best chance of seeing it, is at a film festival.

Ian's rating 2.5/5

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