East 51

On-screen piracy


Raiders on the high seas between cinema and reality. Captain Jack Sparrow versus Afweyne, the Somali pirate king

Piracy in a film context is normally confined to two topics: Johnny Depp and the spectacularly successful Pirates of the Caribbean films – a series of almost phantasmagorical blockbusters based on a theme park ride of several minutes that are ridiculous but also, sometimes, ridiculously entertaining. Or the very real problems of film piracy: the illegal copying, downloading or sharing of films that amount to the theft from producers and distributors of part of their earnings. But real-life, contemporary piracy has long remained offscreen where cinema is concerned, even as it began to appear on the news, most notably in a couple of high-profile cases off the Somali coast in the early 2000s. A 2008 hijacking of a Danish vessel, the CEC Future, was carried out by 11 pirates armed with Kalashnikovs and resulted in extremely long negotiations between the shipping company and the pirates about how much money should change hands for the release of the ship, crew and cargo.

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