Film paints amazing portrait of two men worlds apart

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Adam Schoelz


At first glance, “The Captain and His Pirate” could be a swashbuckling film, its name conjuring images of romance and intrigue. And to an extent it is — there is combat on the high seas, a hostage crisis, bullets and betrayals and close shaves. But to say that “The Captain And His Pirate” is a film driven by kinetic energy would be a mistake. Rather, it is the world’s first buddy-documentary, and it’s a doozy.
The center of the film is a juxtaposition between two wonderful characters — the Captain, Krysztof Kotiuk, at first reserved but drawn out as the film goes on, and the Pirate, Ahado, almost a philosoph against a harsh Somalian backdrop.
Speaking of Somalia, the film has fantastic footage of the country. It starts with the pirate’s hideout, a jutting rock in a bleak and barren desert, and moves into the city, showing the rapid and simultaneous growth and decay of the city in alarming detail — one of the restaurants the Ahado eats at has a wall made of stitched together cardboard boxes.
The Captain, as he is referred to throughout the film, is back in green and tame Germany, in an experimental psychiatric hospital where he tries to cope with the torture and shock he endured for four months. He’s isolated, we can tell from the start — while the Pirate is always surrounded by people except in prayer, Kotiuk is often shown in contemplative thought, seen with only his therapists.
In a way the whole film is about isolation, and human compassion at the most extraordinary of times. Kotiuk was rejected by his crew, his only friends on the sea, for his ‘collaboration’ with the pirates. Ahado recognizes this and slowly begins to respect Kotiuk, eventually, he says, ‘as a man older than my father.’ And so the Pirate found the Captain, after all.
Though it isn’t the main focus, piracy is painted in quite a different light in the film. We like Ahado; he’s eloquent, intelligent, kind, and we get the sense that he’s just trying to make a buck, same as the rest of us. And when viewing the wreckage that is Mogidashu, it’s not hard to understand why the high stakes adventure and money of piracy are appealing.
The film is flawed in that it’s narrative structure is rough; the entire film has only two ‘talking heads,’ the two principal characters. For that it suffers from a lack of context but tells a more personal story. At times, though, that story can be hard to follow — relationships between characters, especially the pirates, can get muddied. But the film is an excellent portrait of two connected men worlds apart, and how they helped each other. It treats both intelligently and empathetically, allowing us as viewers an unparalleled and unfiltered glimpse into the strange relationship between hostage and hostage-taker.
The Captain and His Pirate will be showing one last time 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Globe Theater.
By Adam Schoelz