Fishing Without Nets

January 29, 2014 : 1:25 am | by Ben Elliot

The main character, Abdi

The main character, Abdi

This was probably the most underwhelming feature of the festival for me. Fishing Without Nets begins promisingly with a semi-documentary style that leaves plenty of room for the unexpected. It doesn’t last long though as the film quickly shifts into a more generic format when the main character Abdi decides to join his friend aboard a pirate ship. It is at this point that the film begins to feel like a fairly conventional Hollywood picture. What I mean by that is that it seemed obvious to me at that point what the trajectory of the film would be and that it would end in one of a few ways, a quality that few want to see in a true indie film.

Fishing Without Nets felt a bit like a Hollywood picture that happened not to get backed by a large Hollywood studio, likely because of the release of Captain Phillips last year which told a somewhat similar story. I don’t mean to say that the film was a total failure by any means, only that its avenue of release probably shouldn’t have been at Sundance. The film was highly polarizing, placing Abdi in a position of moral superiority and sometimes challenging his choices in ways that identified viewers with him.

It was this kind of pushiness that made me resistant to it in some way. Perhaps it is my background in film studies that makes me tune out or distance myself from a character whenever I feel their struggle being aggressively placed upon me. This is a quality that frustrates me even more when its placed in a context of films that value subtlety and originality and let you invest in characters in deeper and more interesting ways. Overall, Fishing Without Nets is the kind of drama that I would ordinarily pass on and the same holds true here. It didn’t really need to be at the festival but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets wider release afterwards, which isn’t a bad thing.

Leave a Reply