Have you seen the trailer for the new movie or perhaps seen the whole movie “Captain Phillips” featuring Tom Hanks?
I saw the trailer for this movie and thought “Oh wow! a movie about Somalian pirates? Interesting”. As the movie is based on a true story and like the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to do a little bit of digging into the particular story the movie is based on. It turns out the movie is based on the hijack of an American cargo vessel in 2009. The main character, played by Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, the captain of the vessel who is presented to us as a hero willing to lay down his life as a sacrifice for his crew members. Let me not bore you with the details, you can watch the trailer here.
I have not watched the movie because of the discrepancies between my findings about the real life event and what the movie portrayed. The trailer shows a classic Hollywood style of having the “absolutely good guys” versus the “absolutely bad guys”. In this case, the Somalians are the bad guys while Hanks and his crew are the good guys.
In this age, I have found that Hollywood holds a very special power and that is the power to inform (or misinform or dis-inform) young people. The film is based on a true story and the fact that the movie is advertised as such means that the movie makers have the responsibility to present to us accurate information about the true life event (my opinion). Again, I have not watched the movie but it appears to me that only one side of the story is being told in the movie, the “good guys” side of the story (obviously, the title of the movie gives us that clue).
Abduwali Abdukhad Muse, who was one of the hijackers is currently serving up to 34 years in prison for this crime. I doubt he was consulted before shooting this movie despite playing a very big role in the event. Instead, the movie is based on the book which Richard Phillips was compelled to write after his experience, “A Captain’s Duty”. In essence, we get a one sided story. Some will argue that “well, Muse need not be consulted, he was a criminal and he should stay in prison and serve his time”. Okay, how about the story of his fellow crew members who were shocked to learn about the heroic status given to their captain in the book he was compelled to publish? Their own story must matter, right? Well, the crew’s account of the ordeal contradicted the accounts given by the Captain Phillips in his book. He was accused of actually endangering the lives of the crew due to his negligence and the crew rejects the idea that he selflessly offered his own life for his crew members. Read more here.
Basically, the movie is based on a book which lacks credibility and falsified claims and account. In essence, there is a huge question mark on how TRUE the “based on a true story” is. This is not a blog to “bash” Captain Phillips, it is just to show that there are other stories out there and also to inform viewers not to take the accounts of the movie as facts. The accounts of the crew members is actually very crucial and if they contradict that of the Captain, it shows there are problems that need to be reconciled.
This brings me to the most important aspect of this blog. The other side of the story! If this event intrigues you at all or you are just curious to know more about it, then I suggest looking into the work of Kaizer Matsumunyane and his project, “The Smiling Pirate“…
Kaizer is currently making a film about the same event but from a different angle. He is looking to present the event to us through the lens of Muse, the hijacker currently in prison who’s voice is being surpressed. Kaizer has been in contact with Muse in prison in order to get his own side of the story. Keep an eye out for his work here and support him in any way you can. It is important that we get a balanced understanding of the event. Also, I believe that the accounts of the crew members who experience the ordeal should be promoted.
As Chimamanda Adichie made us to understand, there is a danger in telling just a single story.
Please leave comments and share your thoughts. If you have seen the movie, what do you think of it? How was Captain Phillips sold to the audience? How was the issue of piracy portrayed? How are Somalians portrayed in the movie? I will update this post if/when I get to see the movie as well.
Peace, if you’re willing to fight for it!
The Stubborn Afrikan