Stolen Seas at West End Cinema Wednesday, Jan.30

If moral ambiguity is the heart of piracy, then perhaps it makes sense that the most interesting person in the new pirate documentary Stolen Seas doesn’t really consider himself a pirate. That would be Ishmael Ali, a Somali guy who lived in the United States for a while, returned home to his broken country, and found work as a translator for the small boatload of raiders who had captured the Danish-owned ship CEC Future and its crew in 2008. The ship’s tale provides the framework for the film, which energetically and thoroughly explains the roots of Gulf of Aden piracy. (With all of its geopolitical and economic complications, the situation sounds a lot like the war on drugs.) Ali’s presence is crucial: He credibly provides an insider’s view—and his command of English helps bring nuance to a story in which only a few people’s hands are clean. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with pirate experts of all sorts. Don’t expect much talk about the Jolly Roger and pirate code, though; the panelists are more likely to riff on flags of convenience and transnational law.

The film screens at 7 p.m. at West End Cinema, 2301 M St. NW. $11. (202) 419-3456. westendcinema.com.

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