STOLEN SEAS (Thymaya Payne). 90 minutes. Screens Wednesday (February 6) and February 7 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema as part of Doc Soup. For times, see listing. Rating: NN
Documentaries with an obvious point of view aren't always failures; that's the nature of the advocacy film, after all. The problem arises when a doc pretends it doesn't have the slant it has, as in Stolen Seas.
This month's Doc Soup selection looks at the problem of modern-day piracy, primarily practised by Somali gunmen as an extension of the kidnapping trade. (Ransoming a cargo ship's crew - and the ship itself - can be very, very lucrative.) Director Thymaya Payne hangs his narrative on the 2008 hijacking of the CEC Future, interviewing the ship's Danish owners and the Somali translator who served as a negotiator during the two-month ordeal.
That material is gripping, but it comprises only about a third of Stolen Seas. Payne keeps leaping around to build his larger thesis, which is that modern piracy is the inevitable result of globalization: when an impoverished people watch shiploads of wealth gliding by every day, they'll eventually take action to claim a part of it.
Payne packages his message in a thriller format, with a slew of stylistic tics and urgent musical cues meant to keep our pulse racing, giving us no time to wonder what we're supposed to take away from this morally cloudy exercise in cultural relativism.
Noam Chomsky's finger-wagging appearance certainly doesn't clarify anything.