“a bunch of skinny black guys will get killed”

A few days a go, I noticed that some Twin Cities media people I follow on facebook/twitter were circulating a call for Somali Americans to audition for a Tom Hanks film. I also noticed that none of my East African fb friends were forwarding it on.

Hmmm…. interesting.

photo credit: Barkhad Abdirahman, 17, hopes to land a part in “Capt. Phillips,” about an American ship captain held by pirates in 2009. Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune.

The StarTrib reports that the film is “based on the true story of Richard Phillips, whose ship was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009.” Phillips was rescued by Navy snipers.

This is a significant issue in the cities after the protests and boycotts about the movie Black Hawk Down in 2002 (actors protested too).

Sadly for me I’m not in the TC to hear what people are saying about this. But the Strib report does quote two pretty well known (locally) Somali youth:

Mohamed Jama, a Somali-American teenager and co-founder of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council, predicts a huge turnout. “The city is fired up for this,” he said.

He was among those who had concerns about the movie at first. He said the only other major film about Somalia, “Black Hawk Down,” depics Somalis as “ruthless” war criminals who hate Americans. Also, actors hired to play Somalis appeared to be people from West Africa, not East Africa.

Jama, who said he hasn’t seen the script yet, is cautiously optimistic after meeting with the casting team and hearing more about the story.”I’m hoping for better, but we’ll see,” he said. …

Abdi Ahmed is not trying out for “Capt. Phillips.”

“In general, people are skeptical about Hollywood,” said Ahmed, co-owner of Safari Restaurant & Banquet Center.

He worries it will misrepresent not only Somalis, but also piracy in the Horn of Africa, which he says is a very complex issue.

“People make it out to be too simple. They see it as all about criminals. That’s true, but that’s only half the story,” he said.

Before civil war broke out in 1991, people who lived on the country’s coast relied on fishing as their livelihood, he said. But with the collapse of the government, ships from other countries began to enter the area and that led to overfishing. The waters became a dumping ground for other countries to dispose of toxic waste, he said.

Out of this chaos came Somali pirates.

“I can tell you what the movie is going to be already — they will have a bunch of white American people kidnapped and Tom Hanks will save them and a bunch of skinny black guys will get killed,” Ahmed said.

“I know either way — whether I’m a part of it or not — I know how it’s going to be,” he said, because it’s a commercial, Hollywood movie.

Still, Ahmed and Jama say if the film portrays the historical context and humanizes the characters, perhaps it could be a breakthrough not only for the actors’ careers, but also for Somalis’ image.

“This movie could play an important role for the Somali community,” Jama said.

(more here)

I’ll be following this (though sadly mostly from a distance). Please let me know if you have any thoughts, info or links on this…

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