Friday, May 03, 2013

The Last Black Sea Pirates

Swashbuckling ain't what it used to be.

The men who star as the titular characters in The Last Black Sea Pirates will never be confused with Johnny Depp. But if your taste in heartthrobs runs towards slovenly drifters, drunkards and ex-convicts, the 72 minutes you'll spend with this bumbling band of treasure hunters will fly right by.

Leader Captain Jack The Whale, who has lived with several dogs and cats in a decrepit trailer on a secluded Black Sea beach in Bulgaria for 25 years, is quite content to keep his men supplied with booze and smokes as long as they do the grunt work of digging to try and find large stashes of gold allegedly buried in Karadere by rogue 19th century Ottoman naval commander Vulchan. After all, Captain Jack is a leader -- not a labourer.

They've searched for years, but have much more success at catching fish than discovering gold. But what they're best at is being drunk and hapless, and their relationships go through highs and lows as their frustration increases -- especially after it's announced that the area they've been searching is going to be developed into a tourist resort. The pirates vow to fight the development by violent means, though construction is delayed so they can keep using their dynamite to blast for gold while their dubious plans to sabotage villas and cabanas are put on hold.

But this documentary (which the writer and director admit has some scripted scenes) doesn't just focus on the quest for riches. Hard-drinking pirate Ilko is in love with fellow lush Zone, who dreams of being his bride and using their share of the elusive loot to finance a grand wedding. This tragi-comic couple's ups and downs somewhat mirror the fractious friendships among Captain Jack's motley crew members and provide a neat parallel.

I don't want to give away too much, and I learned more than what's in the movie since the director and writer talked to the audience after its North American premiere at the Scotiabank Theatre on Wednesday night. So, while Captain Jack The Whale may lack the charm of Captain Jack Sparrow, his oddly endearing men make The Last Black Sea Pirates a film worth seeking out.

The Last Black Sea Pirates will have its final showing of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival at 9 p.m. on May 4 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1.

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