Somali pirates – and purported ones – focus of Czech-produced doc set for OW premiere

'Pirating Pirates', photo: archive of One World

The Czech-produced Pirating Pirates, which premieres on Friday at Prague’s One World festival of human rights documentaries, looks at why some Somalis began raiding foreign vessels in the mid-1990s. But the film also has a fresh twist, as its makers find themselves struggling to establish the bona fides of locals claiming to be pirates and charging for interviews. I asked Pirating Pirates’ director David Čalek what had attracted him to the subject in the first place.

'Pirating Pirates',  photo: archive of One World
“In the Somali case it’s interesting to me that it’s an example of a battlefield where the Western and Third Worlds meet. Some problems that we caused in the past are affecting people on the Somali coast now.

“It’s interesting to me to tell European audiences about these connections, because it’s good to have another opinion, apart from the most common news from big stations and magazines.”

How does the reality of Somali pirates compare to what you had known previously from the media, from news?

“You always see the bad guys who are attacking peaceful ships. But then you see that evil guys also have their history, and it’s not black and white.

“We bear part of the blame for this situation, because of illegal fishing on the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden, and illegal dumping of waste in Somali waters. The European Union and authorities saw these activities but didn’t care about them.

“Now we have the result. We are surprised, and we’re sending troops with European money and we have Operation Atalanta.

“But there are more effective solutions which could have been done before, and now there probably would be no pirates on the Somali coast.”

I guess the central theme of your film is what happens when you meet these guys who say that they are pirates and you find yourself doing almost kind of James Bond undercover stuff in an effort to find out if they’re for real?

“Actually our story begins in one garden in Nairobi, when we realise that maybe we can’t trust our hero completely. What follows this is what the film is about.

“I don’t want to say much about it, but compared to James Bond they were lovely stories. And actually we followed some parts of Nairobi where James Bond was shot.”