Tribeca Breakdown: "The Project"

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An award-winning film team risks life and limb to document one of the most audacious military missions ever imagined as an anti-piracy force in the lawless Somalia battles to rescue dozens of innocent hostages from real-life pirates on the high seas. From hijacked oil tankers, to pirate prisons, to a murder, and the attempted killing of a cameraman, almost everything is captured on tape in this gripping, real-life war thriller that aims to expose an unknown, anything-goes battle in one of the most dangerous places on earth.
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“Somalia is like a Max Max film” says one person in the documentary “The Project”, an apt description for a movie that wants to illimindate the different viewpoints and controversies surrounding the country that has the longest coastline on the continent of Africa.

Tremendous poverty, execution style shootings on land and piracy at sea has continued to get worse and they are getting no aid whatsoever from overseas. These pirates, said to be led by a former shop-keeper turned warlord-type named Isse Yula, are well-equipped and are capable of achieving millions in these hostage crisises at sea. One of the surviving sailors recounts the ordeal of having his ship hi-jakced, rail-thin men you normally wouldn’t be intimidated by made powerful by the weaponry they carried. This would be a 33 month ordeal for these sailors, caught up in terrible conditions, while worried family members back home in India hold rallys to convince their government to bring their husbands, friends, and brothers home.

Meanwhile on the ground in Somalia, missionaries unsanctioned by the UN, calling themselves Executive Outcome, train the Puntland Marine Force, recruiting boys from Somalia to try and attain security themselves, after their government will not help. It seems like a step forward, until you realize they could easily be infiltrated by Yula and his pirates. General Roger Karstens has ingrained himself with these soldiers, bringing a camera crew with him, to examine whether or not this option can be a success.

He goes out on patrol with this guys, giving us harrowing (and somewhat dizzying from all the shakey camera-work) examples of the right and wrong of having this type of security force. A truck breakdown is shockingly intense while the finale plays out like something out of a Hollywood movie. Finally we have Matt Bryden, a coordinator for the UN who is very skeptical of Puntland and its tactics but Bryden is also part of the same organization that has yet to come up with an effective strategy on its own to deal with the problem. This movie raises tough questions and comes up with imperfect answers, but maybe sometimes imperfect is the best your going to get.