Saturday, April 23, 2011

Movie idea: Gentlemen of Fortune

Inside me is a film director wishing to be unleashed.  So here I will bore you with my newest film idea:  Gentlemen of Fortune.  This is a movie about Somali Pirates.  I find them to be an incredibly fascinating lot.  First, let us start with the cinematic aspect of this film.  Imagine the basic setting like this:

It is, to me, a very visually striking image.  It defies the standard convention of what a pirate looks like.

Somali Pirates are a subject matter that many people have a cursory understanding; people know that they exist and have had some successes recently.  But many people know nothing else of this fascinating subject.  What do they look like?  As you can see they don't look like Jack Sparrow but they are colorful characters none the less.

This particular film would be a Picaresque look at a rogue who enters into piracy as a way to escape a life in Mogadishu as a warlord's foot soldier.  We begin in the war torn streets of the city, where the conflict takes a heavy toll on those around our protagonist (what shall we call him?  Asad?).  Fearing for his life as the warlords are driven out by al-Shabab, he ends up staring at the sea.

Opportunity.  Sometimes it only comes once in a lifetime.  You have to take it while you can or end up at the mercy of the tides.

Here our man befriends some pirates in a fishing village.  We see the way that these rouges operate, how they disguise themselves as fishermen from Seychelles and begin to prey upon hapless boats.  They grow increasingly bold until they make a major score:  an oil tanker bound for American shores. From here on out they are marked men as the big US gunboats hunt them down over the vastness of the ocean.  They are but a speck in the thousands of miles of the Indian Ocean, yet the American technology has made the ocean so small.  Eventually they are hunted down and captured, and the film ends with our protagonist sitting in jail in America waiting for trial.

What I want to make this narrative say is that our protagonist is a dreamer.  He dreams of a life where he is not under the thumb of a warlord, spilling blood to capture a few blocks of rubble or some relief food.  He takes to the sea to become free, where he feels he controls his own fate.  In the end, he is in prison.  An ironic fate for a man pursuing freedom to be destined to end up behind bars.

This film will be challenging for the typical American audience because the protagonist is not a "hero" or a "good guy".  He isn't particularly virtuous; an armed mercenary working for a warlord typically isn't.  Nor is he a terrible sadist.  He captures the crews, treats them like the valuable commodity they are, and sets them free when the ransom arrives.  He has a rudimentary knowledge of English and loves Bollywood movies.  But it would be an inside look at the lives of Somali Pirates.  The gritty stories of desperately poor young men searching for riches the only way they can might have some resonance with the entertainment audience.

It would be a good movie to make, and if it is made remember where you read it first and who was ripped off.

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