Somali Pirate Movie By Local 20-Somethings Makes Sundance Festival

by Sophie Pyle · January 11, 2012

"Fishing Without Nets" is a short narrative film about Somali pirates directed and produced by Washington-area natives Cutter Hodierne, Raphael Swann and John Hibey. The team put their lives on the line when filming the piece in Africa on a 3-month journey that was only supposed to take a month.

The film made the cut for Sundance, the touted independent film festival happening later this month that has been spearheaded by Robert Redford since 1978. Only 200 films were accepted out of about 9,000 submissions. [View the Trailer]

"We had no protection while we were filming," Swann said. "The scariest moment was my first day in Kenya - we went to a concert at a beach resort, where we were accosted by armed Kenyans wearing military uniforms who handcuffed us, tried to kidnap us, and then settled for all of our money. We found out later that they were not police or in any way related to the military. They were just random thieves looking to rob foreigners."

"I thought it might be the end," Hodierne added. "It was particularly horrible because we hadn't even begun filming yet."

The film has the look and feel of a documentary, but it actually isn't. Regardless, the guys explained to Guest of a Guest that they had to work to earn the trust of the Somali refugee actors living in Kenya, where a majority of the film was shot.

"They were very suspicious of us. They thought we were trying to set them up and make them look like pirates--but eventually we became really great friends with them," said Hodierne. "Many of them had fought in the civil war in Somalia, and many had real militia fighting experience. So, they were no strangers to AK-47's and RPGs."

Speaking of AK-47's and RPGs, the guys had to fight with the Kenyan government for three months to earn permission to use real weapons in the film. "Raphael and I literally waited one week in a waiting room to get a meeting with the head of police...the adventure really became something like 'three white guys go to Africa and try to rent guns from the cops,'" Hodierne said.

Kenyan Harold Otieno and Somali Abu Bakr Mire are also credited as producers of the film. Hodierne still keeps in touch with Otieno. "He was a major piece in the puzzle. He coordinated everything for us while we were in Kenya," Hodierne told Guest of a Guest. Mire was their key to the Somali network' and coordinated "gangs of Somalis to show up and cooperate."

Hodierne and Swann went to Arlington's H-B Woodlawn for high school, and Hibey went to Georgetown Prep. Swann and Hodierne are both based in LA now but Hibey is still in DC.

Psst--Guest of a Guest will be covering the people, places and parties of Sundance this year! Email sophie.pyle@guestofaguest.com for more information.