The Collegian
Friday, September 22, 2023

Cutter Hodierne to show film on campus Monday

Fresh off another Sundance award, director Cutter Hodierne will bring his acclaimed film “Fishing Without Nets” to campus Monday to show students what Somalian piracy looks like through the eyes of the Somalis. Hodierne’s father is none other than Robert Hodierne, chair of the journalism department here at University of Richmond.

Cutter has received much attention for his film since winning the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prominent independent film festivals in the world. The story, directed and co-written by Cutter, details the circumstances that drag desperate Somalis into the dark world of piracy. Unlike some of its cinematic peers that have sought to tell a similar story, Cutter wanted to make this movie from the Somalis’ perspective, to add some humanity to the men who often have no other options to support their families other than crime. The film originally started out as a short, which won Cutter the Grand Jury Prize for short filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Festival, as well as some financial backing from Vice Films, allowing him to turn his short into a full-length feature. 

The full movie will screen Monday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Ukrop Auditorium, followed by a Q&A.

Cutter said he was influenced enormously by a New York Times article he read in 2008, which described the hijacking of a Ukrainian vessel bound for Kenya and brimming with scores of tanks and military equipment. But while the world panicked over whether the Somalis were trying to militarize, Cutter said he was floored when he read the pirates simply wanted money and no harm to come to anyone. “On top of that, those tanks were actually being smuggled illegally into Kenya as the Kenyan government was paid to turn a blind eye,” Cutter said. He said he remembered thinking to himself, “There is so much going on here that I need to investigate.”

Cutter's natural curiosity should not come as a surprise, considering both of his parents are prominent journalists. He had always had a fascination with the news, but said he had also inherited his parents' fearlessness and instinctual pursuit of knowledge. “I think it’s like an instinctual thing for me. It definitely feels like it’s in my genes – I mean look at what my dad did when he was 21.”

Back in the late 1960s, Robert packed his bags and went to cover the Vietnam War as a freelance photographer. So, when Cutter told him of his plans to travel to Kenya to shoot a movie with Somali refugees, he was not about to tell his son not to follow his dreams. “He’s got a streak of daring,” Robert said. “If you made a list of the reasons that Cutter shouldn’t have done this film, it’d be a pretty impressive list.” In fact, Robert was in Utah with his son earlier this year when he won the award. He said there would never be a feeling again quite like being there for his son to win such a prestigious prize. He called hearing his son named as winner of the top director in the dramatic division “one of the two or three most exciting moment of my life." Robert is proud of Cutter, and said, "I think until you’re a parent, you can’t really appreciate how much satisfaction you get out of seeing your kid be successful.”

To give an example of his son’s unflappability, Robert spoke of Cutter’s reaction upon hearing of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Hodiernes were living in Arlington, Virginia at the time. “Both his mother and I were away from the house, and she got home first late that afternoon, and he wasn’t home,” Robert said, pointing out that this was also before cell phones had become widely used. “He had grabbed his little video camera and walked the four or five miles to the Pentagon to shoot video.”

“I called my mom from a pay phone right across from the Pentagon,” Cutter said, “and she was like, ‘Wait, where are you? I thought you were upstairs!’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m down at the Pentagon. Most moms would have been like, ‘What the ----, get back here!’ But she just said, ‘What! OK, I’m coming to meet you!”

That bravery would come in handy, as Cutter described one of the scariest moments from his experience in Kenya, close to the Somali border. “We were held up at gunpoint while we were making our short film. Some guys held us up with AK-47s on a beach and put handcuffs on us to hook us together. There was loud music playing nearby, so we couldn’t even scream for help.” The gunmen had planned to take Cutter and his film crew to jail, but upon realizing that he and his crew would also be fined, Cutter said he offered to simply give the gunmen money directly, rather than pay someone else later. “They let us go for what was about $100. We bolted for the car and drove away.” While he said it was the scariest moment of his life, he also said “it was great material for a pirate film.”

Though traveling to the Somali border to film a movie about pirates sounds dangerous to most, as does capturing images of the Vietnam War as bullets whizzed by, the Hodiernes have made it clear they are willing to risk their safety to follow their passions.

“A lot of things in life are just a matter of doing it,” Robert said. “Ninety percent of success is just doing it.”

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