Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Blue is the Warmest Color" is an unblinking look at young lesbian love

Film wins Canne Film Festival's Palm d'Or in unprecedented determination

promotional photos courtesy Sundance Select/IFC Films
New York news conference photos by Dwight Casimere

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere at the 51st New York Film Festival October 11, 2013
 Adele Exarchopoulos as high school student Adele in the coming-of-age romance/drama

 Director Abdellatif Kechiche and the film's stars Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos jointly accept the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival
 Director Kechiche with the film's star Adele Exarchopoulos (center) at the New York Film Festival press screening

Lea Seydoux as the older Emma and Adele Exarchopoulos as the teenaged Adele in the sexually charged lesbian love story "Blue is the Warmest Color"

NEW YORK--Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated screening at the 51st New York Film Festival was the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner "Blue is
the Warmest Color" from Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche and Sumdance Selects and IFC Films (USA). The film opened to solid revues and strong ticket sales in limited opening runs in New York and Los Angeles and received critical acclaim at recent screenings at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival. The film recieved the unusual distinction of being unanimously voted to win the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or award. In an unprecedented move, the jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, elected to give the award jointly to the director and the film's two female stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and and Lea Seydoux, making the actresses the only women besides Jane Campion to have won the festival's top award. On crafting its announcement, the jury said it was awarding the "three artists" involved in creating the movie, thus elevating the role of actors in the creative process and removing some of the "auteure" snobbery associated with previously limiting the award only to directors. 

Also titled  "La Vie d'Adele" (The Life of Adele) in the original French version, which won the Palm d'Or, the live-action romance/drama generated both considerable controversy and high praise for its explicit sex scenes which depicted unbridled lesbian lovemaking. The centerpiece, no-holds-barred (pardon the pun) lesbian sex scene in the three-hour movie lasts nearly ten minutes. Both actresses are shown in a virtually static,  single full-frame, full body 
shot that records their love-making. It is uninterupted, without any background music or audio, other than the sounds of their physical contact and there is no cutaway to relieve the visual tension. It is a powerful scene that is unrelenting in its brutal honesty. Admittedly titilating for a moment, it does begin to get a bit tedious about five minutes in. You're just about ready to take the obligatory afterglow nap before its all over. The same can be said for the rest of the film, which is beautifully shot, with almost every frame laboriously and meticulously mapped out, sometimes to the point of the obvious. To its saving grace, however,  there always seems to be some captivating nuance, some never to be duplicated emotional charge, no matter how many times it is telegraphed, and that happens frequently, that makes this one of the most compelling films of the year. It's easy to see why it won the Palm d'Or and in such spectacular fashion.

The great Steven Spielberg, who heads the Cannes jury, is quoted as saying the film is the best love story he has ever seen.

The two stars have been on a whirlwind global promotional tour and stopped recently to give a news conference at a press screening during the final days of the 51st New York Film Festival. Both readily admitted that the filming process was excruciating, with the explicit sex scene topping the list. To put it bluntly, according to the actors, it was not an easy shoot. "It was too difficult," said Exarchopoulos, who is not a lesbian, and who is, in fact, now dating her male co-star in the film, Jeremie Laheurte. He (director Kechiche)  asked me to do things that made me feel like a prostitute. I will never work with him again," she said,  tongue-in-cheek (again, pardon the extremely distasteful pun). The sex scene took ten days to shoot. "Abdell (the director) likes to take his time. He doesn't like fabrication. He doesn't want to see you act, he wants your soul," she said through an interpreter, provided by the film festival. Despite her protests, there's speculation that a sequel is already in the works.

 Exarchopoulos said she cut herself on a glass door during the fight scene between she and Seydoux, "He wanted us to really hit each other and continued shooting even after I was hurt." 

The film has already earned nearly a million dollars in sales in just a few weeks of limited release in New York and Los Angeles. It's drawing huge crowds as it rolls out in countries around the world and is being awaited with baited breath by audiences in this country for its eventual wider release in U.S. theaters.  "Blue is the Warmest Color" is a groundbreaking film that treats a sensitive subject with honesty and an unblinking eye. Go see it, just bring along a comfy seat cushion and lots of popcorn.

Met Live HD "The Nose" uses absurd humor, multi-media staging to attract younger audience

 Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
 Paulo Szot as the hapless bureaucrat Kovalyov and Police Inspector Andrey Popov

 Multi-media set designed by South African visual artist  William Kentridge

Shostakovich's adaptation of Chekhov landmark short story in Met Live HD Encore performance Wednesday, October 30, 2013 6:30pm local time

Live at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City through December 12, 2013

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere

Photos courtesy Metropolitan Opera House-Ken Howard

NEW YORK--The Nose, based on short story of the same name by Russian satirical writer  Nikolai Gogol , is presented in a dazzling, multi-media revival production at the Metropolitan Opera House. With music by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and sets and multi-media conception by South African visual artist William Kentridge, utilizes multi-level staging, film and  video projection as well as imaginative costumes to create an all-encompassing visual and dramatic experience. Using what he calls "brutal humor," Kentridge uses the stage to project the central theme of  The Nose as a satire on the absurdity of modern society, its bureaucracies and hypocrisies.

 Polish-Brazilian operatic baritone Paulo Szot reprises his role as the hapless low-level St. Petersburg bureaucrat, Kovalyov,  who awakens one morning to find that his nose, severed by a drunken town barber, has suddenly run away to claim its own life as a higher level Soviet official. Conducted with a firm, but occassionally lilting touch by Russian conductor Pavel Smelkov, who shares podium duties during the opera's run through December 12 with Met favorite Valery Gergiev, who led the Met Premiere of The Nose in 2010, the opera achieves its goal if injecting humor into an otherwise look at society in a police state. Russian actor Andrey Popov is the Police Inspector, in a Groucho Marx inspired comic performance. British musical theatre actor Alexander Lewis, a graduate of the Met's Lindeman Yong Artist Development Program, cavorts across the stage in oversized costume, designed by Kentridge with Sabine Theunissen, as The Nose. Met soprano Patricia Racette served as the amicable Live in HD Host.

Having seen both the premiere live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and experiencing it Live in HD, which was transmitted to more than 1,950 movie theaters in 64 countries worldwide, it can be said that, in this case, the Live HD incarnation was the far superior of the two experiences. With so much going on both dramatically and visually on the Met stage, it was difficult to keep up with the fast-paced action while trying to read projected subtitles at the bottom of each wing of the stage. It was even more difficult to navigate viewing the translated libretto from the tiny screens on the backs of the audience seats while at the same time, retaining visual contact with the action on stage. It was all happening much to fast to make any sense of it! Met Live HD, with its neat, compact subtitles in bold white text placed strategically in the lower center of the screen, allowed the audience to retain visual contact with the performance while at the simultaneously reading the English translation of the Russian text.

William Kentridge spoke with Met General Manager Peter Gelb on camera during the Met Live HD intermission. "The great Russian playwright and aiuthor Anton Chekhov once described "The Nose" as the greatest short story ever written," he told Gelb while relaxing backstage during rehearsals. "The story is very simple, but it raises some complex questions about the heights of absurdity and contradiction we all face in modern society. The story itself was conceived at the very outset of modernism. Shostakovich's score with its dramatic bursts, further underlines the brutal satire of the story."

Dramatic tension and a good deal of wry comedy are created as the story quickly unfolds. "The story follows collegiate assessor Kovalyov has he goes on the absurd journey of trying to track down his nose, only to discover, to his horror, that his nose is now at  a higher bureaucratic rank than he is, and his nose refuses to speak to him." We see the nose in rear screen projection riding regally on a militarty horse, that disintegrates and reconstitutes itself at various times, hinting at the breakdown and erratic fluidity of modern society. The Stalinesque Police Inspector appears, first on a scaffold high above the stage, issuing edicts and warnings to the assembled teeming masses below. The Nose wanders through it all, delighting in its newly found privilege and independence, even appearing at one point, in the guise of the famed Russian dancer Anna Pavlova.  "So its really about what constitutes a person; how singular we are, yet how divided we are against ourselves.

"It's also about the tyranny of hierarchy. The set itself also exists as a huge screen for visual projection. At times the focus of the lighting is on the action and the singers and actors onstage, and then at times they're obliterated and are lost inside a huge projection, so that sense of things that seem solid becoming suddenly evanescent is a them that I'm very interest in."

The Nose in Met Live HD will have an Encore Performance in movie theaters Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30pm local time. The Canadian Encores takes place Saturday, November 30 at 12 Noon Eastern Time. Visit or for more information.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center

New York stop is culmination of national tour

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere
Photos by Ayano Hisa

NEW YORK--On the heels of a triumphant world tour, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club completed its subsequent U.S. tour with a two-night stand at Jazz at Lincoln Center. With respectable representation of New York's sizeable Cuban-American population jamming the Rose Theatre, along with a smattering of devout fans of the Latin Grammy Award winning ensemble, the performance was more like a homecoming than your standard concert. With the audience on its feet for much of their performance of Cuban and Latin jazz favorites, it wasn't long before they were dancing in their seats and literally, in the aisles. The sheer fervor of the singers and the driving beat of the percussion and bright, inventive horn and guitar solos and vivid melodic lines, affirmed the band's identity as a Cuban national treasure.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Slub arrived on the international stage a decade ago with an Oscar-nominated documentary by acclaimed director Wim Wenders and a Grammy-winning album that has sold millions. The Orquestra draws huge crowds wherever it performs and recently wowed critics with its newest incarnation at venues such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, Davis Symphony Hall in San Francisco and Symphony Center in Chicago.

It was 2003 when the Cuban all-stars, then known as the Buena Vista Social Club arrived on United States stages in the wake of their unlikely and sudden fame. Sadly, the progression of time has taken away iconic founding members such as vocalist-guitarist Compay Segundo, vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer and pianist Ruben Gonzaliez. Fortunately, other founding-generation luminaries are still in place; 82 year old Omara Portuondo Pelaez (she'' be 83 October 29, Happy Birthday!!) reprises her earlier role as  lead singer. Prior to singing with the Buena Vista Social Club in its beginning years in the mid 1990's, she was a major star who has sung and danced with the likes of Nat King Cole and Chucho Valdes and is one of the original members of Cuba's fabled Cuarteto d'Aida. Gingerly led on stage by two smiling aides, all signs of infirmity disappeared when she launched into songs familiar to every Cuban in the house, many of whom sang along with gusto. These were the songs of their native land that had become almost anthems and a bitter-sweet reminder of the culture and sense of family many of them have left behind. Many sang and danced with abandon, reveling in the musical spell cast over them by the band. 72 year old Trumpeter Guajiro Mirabel is a founding member of the Buena Vista Social Club and was among the first musicians recruited by British producer Nick Gold to perform in the recording sessions that produced the multi-platinum album and groundbreaking concert documentary. Mirabel is a key figure in Cuban music and gave it his all for the Rose theatre concert. It's as if time has stood still for this highly energetic and innovative performer. Blistering trombone solos and heartfelt vocals from Trombonist and Musical Director Jesus Aguaje Ramos kept the lively pace going but the most arresting solos were those of Barbarito Torres on the mandolin shaped stringed instrument, the Laud, and its hanting tone and Guitarist-singer Eliades Ochoa who made a flashy entrance with his trademark cowbow hat and signature Paladin, "Have Gun Will Travel" black attire. Often called the Cuban Johnny Cash, his vocals on "El Cuarto de Tula" stole the show. After several encores, both the band and the audience danced through the exits after a transformative experience that turned the Rose theatre into a night in Old Havana.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"All Is Lost" a triumph of cinematic, acting artistry

Robert Redford gives Oscar-worthy performance in "All Is Lost"

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere at the New York Film Festival
News conference photos by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK---"All is Lost," starring Robert Redford, is a tribute to the art of filmmaking and the crowning achievement in an acting career that spans more than four decades. The Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions feature opened in New York and Los Angeles this past weekend and rolls out in limited release across the country next week.

Beginning with a somber monologue, spoken by Redford in a poignant internal voice and save for a desperate May Day call over a failing ship to shore radio and a few expletives shouted in frustration, these are the only lines spoken by Redford throughout the entire film.  His opening words are somewhat of an epitaph, foretelling the desperate battle for survival of man against an unforgiving sea that will unfold. A loud thump in the dark and the opening image of a giant shipping container piercing the fiberglass hull of his sailing vessel drifting in the middle of the ocean sets up the dilemma faced by the unnamed protagonist played with silent resolve by Redford. Only an actor with his cumulative skill could have executed this role with such clarity and elegance.

At 76 years old, Redford still projects the steely masculinity and understated strength that have been the hallmarks of his career. Director Chandor affirms that all of the stunts, save for one particularly dangerous underwater swimming scene, were done by the actor himself. "Bob is an avid swimmer, and in top physical condition," Chandor affirmed, with the bespectacled superstar sitting beside him wearing his characteristic cowboy boots. "We used a stunt man in that sequence, but frankly, we were even concerned about his safety because of the difficulty and danger involved." We see Redford repairing the damaged hull with epoxy and tarp and climb up the mast with the help of the bosun's chair (a task this former avid sailor can firmly attest to as a real test of upper-body strength) as he affixes the storm sail and attempts to repair his navigation and ship to shore radio connections. His electronic gear quickly gives out, an he is reduced to dusting off a previously unused ship's sextant to find his way to the nearest shipping lane where, hopefully a large container vessel, the ironic cause of his predicament, can become his salvation.

Without so much as a single word, Redford conveys both the magnitude of the danger he faces while at the same time displaying grace under pressure. His movements are purposeful, measured and deliberate. There's not a wasted motion as he sets about tightening the ship against the elements closing in around. He's completely in control, even though all is falling apart around him. We even see him cook himself a hot meal in the ship's galley, the only telltale admission that things may not be going so smoothly is the hearty extra swig of whiskey he takes to wash what may be his last meal down. Mysteriously, he even shaves, as the boat rocks precariously in the wake of the approaching storm that could wipe him out.

"We were trying to show the thinking that in the midst of a crisis like this, you attempt to do things as normally as possible," Redford said of his character's motivation. "You try to maintain as normal a routine as possible, even in the face of disaster. That's the only way you can hopefully survive mentally in that situation."

We learn little about the character he plays. In the credits, he is only described as "Our Man." We assume that he is married and has a family, because of the tone of the farewell letter he composed mentally at the outset of the film and the wedding ring we see him wearing as he outfits his boat, and later his life raft. Only as he sadly watches his vessel sink into the murky depths and we see her name, the Virginia Jane, so we get any additional clues as to his backstory.

"All Is Lost" is a masterpiece of superb filmmaking. Director of photography Frank G. DeMarco, captures the vast grandeur of the open sea, while at the same time conveying its unrelenting treachery. Underwater director of photography Peter Zuccarini, provided sequences that heightened the dramatic pace. Edited by Pete Beaudreau with spare, emotive music by Alex Ebert and production design by John P. Goldsmith,  the film has polish with a seamless look of integrity. The film takes us into the very hold of the crippled ship and brings us directly into the face of the unfolding tragedy and that of one of the finest actor's of the past century. Redford won an Oscar in 1980 for Best Director of "Ordinary People." It's high time that he is similarly recognized for what may be the crowning achievement of his career as an actor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dual debuts give New York Philharmonic concert a youthful air

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere October 15, 2013

New York-The tone was decidedly youthful with the New York Philharmonic subscription debut of one of the orchestra's assistant conductors, 26 year old Joshua Weilerstein and the New York Philharmonic debut of 31 year old German violinist Arabella Steinbacher in a program of Mendelssohn's Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Osvaldo Golijov's Last Round, concluding with Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G major.

Weilerstein made it quite evident that he well knows the ins and outs of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, digging into the Latin jazz elements of the Argentine-born composer's vibrant composition with its flashes of tonal color and undulating rhythms. Weilerstein at times seemed to dance on the podium as he accentuated the compositions urgent twists and turns through the evolution of the tango. Last Round is a virtual tribute to the tango, tracing its roots from the old style in the slums to the avant garde. 

Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto is a very different story, by contrast. It is one of the most refined examples of his skill as a composer and his tremendous propensity to edit and refine his already pristine compositions to a fine, honed edge. The ravishing Arabella Steinbacher was more than up to the task of scaling the difficult technical heights of the composer's lofty vision, dispatching the most difficult passages with easy   and through the nimbleness of her supple fingers, embuing the most challenging passages with a depth of emotion that far surpassed her years. Weilerstein and the orchestra were the perfect foils for her exceptional efforts, providing the urgent underpinnings inherent in Mendelssohn's dense, but lovely orchestrations. The Andante was dripping with emotion without being overly syrupy, with Steinbacher lending an almost vocalese effect to her singing violin. The Allegro molto vivace was spine-tingling in its execution, prompting a thunderous standing ovation.

Similarly, Weilerstein led the orchestra in a vivid realization of Dvorak's Sympbony No. 8 in G Major. The bright, crisp entrances by the brass and firm, driving pulsations from the percussion made this a dramatic tour de force between conductor and orchestra. Weilerstein accentuated the composer's bright notations for the brilliant beginning Allegro con brio. The finale Allegro ma non troppo was unhurried, yet filled with energy. Levels were sustained to a near fever pitch, yet the conductor was able to hold just enough in reserve to deliver an explosive conclusion that brought down the house. Thrilling!
 New York Philharmonic Assistant Conductor Joshua Weilerstein

 German violin virtuoso Arabella Steinbacher

12 Years a Slave-Steve McQueen's masterpiece has U.S. Premiere at New York Film Festival

Fox Searchlight film opens everywhere October 18
12 Years a Slave based on the real-life account of Solomon Northup-a free black man living in upstate New York in pre-Civil War America

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere
news conference photos by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK-Fox Searchlight film's 12 Years a Slave is Steve McQueen's gripping retelling of the true story of Solomon Northup, who wrote a book about his 12 year odyssey from being a free man, living a middle class life in upstate New York, to being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Northup's  memoir was published to great fanfare and became a best seller just eight years before the start of the Civil War.  Now, 160 years later, his harrowing tale hits the big screen in a brilliantly imagined production by one of the world's most daring directors. British director Steve McQueen is best known for his stunning work in the stark film Hunger, which depicted hunger the strike-until-death by IRA activists in Northern Ireland. African actor Chiwete Ejiofor (Talk To Me) plays the role of Northup in a heart-rendering performance and Michael Fassbender, who played the sex-addicted misanthrope in McQueen's Shame, which premiered at the New York festival two years ago, plays Northup's sadistic, psychologically twisted owner and Brad Pitt, also one of the film's producers,  makes a cameo appearance as the Canadian abolitionist who befriends him and later hands him the key that will allow Northup passage back to his old life. Henry Louis gates, the renowned African American scholar, geneologist and author, served as consultant to the film.

Written by John Ridley (Red Tails), the film begins with Northup leading the ideal upper middle class life, playing his beloved antique violin after a hard,but fruitful day working at a resort hotel in Saratoga Springs, tucking his picture perfect son and daughter into bed, and making love to his beautiful wife in their silk and satin sheeted canopy bed. When Northup's wife heads off to work for several weeks for a wealthy white family some distance away, he is wiled away by some shysters posing as agents or a traveling circus who enlist his services as a violinist for a private show in Washington, D.C. "It's only for two weeks time," the one top hatted demon in disguise promises, "after which time you'll be whisked right back home." Northup takes the offer, thinking that not even his wife will be the wiser as he'll run off, make some quick cash, have an adventure and return home without her even knowing.

After drinking too much spiked wine at a formal celebratory dinner with the two hooligans, Northup finds himself awakening from a drunken stuper in the dungeon of Williams' Slave Pen off Seventh Street n the Nation's Capital, just within sight, as the camera deftly shows, of the U.S. Capitol Building.

The film is full of such cruel ironies. Northup is lent out to a neighboring plantation by his cruel owner, whose plantation, almost Biblically, is nearly wiped out by a plague of locusts. Northup's temporary owner is a kindly judge who takes a liking to him, even going out of his way to locate a violin for him to play. Northup etches the names of his wife and children next to its chin rest. This idyllic interlude ends quickly, however, and its back to the chaingang-like existence at Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana with its endless cotton fields and hideous swamps on Edward Epps' plantation,  from which no slave ever escaped with his life.

Along  the way, Northup is given some sage advice from one of his fellow formerly-free captives, "don't let them know you can read or write. Just keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and do what they tell you."

Northup befriends one of the slave girls who becomes the unwilling paramour of the slave master, who forces himself upon her in sadistic fashion. "The scene, as horrible as it was, was actually beautiful, in the way it was shot and the way it appears on the screen. You see this silhouette, which looks almost like one of those paintings, with the stark outline of her face, with its African features, and his profile, which is so distinctly Caucasian. It's a striking contrast that reflects the dichotomy of the tone throughout the film.

"In many ways, the story of Solomon Northup has almost a Grimm Fairy Tale quality about it. Here we have this protagonist  snatched from this idyllic world and thrown into this distorted and horrible alternate reality. It's almost like Alice In Wonderland seduced by the Mad Hatter and then thrown down the rabbit hole into this surreal distorted world, which for him, was slavery on this plantation. There are so many layers of reality colliding with this surreal experience that he can't even begin to come to grips with, based on the genteel life he'd become accustomed to."

12 Years a Slave opens everywhere October 18. It is a film that commands your immediate attention.
 Dwight Casimere with director Steve McQueen at the New York Film Festival
 British director Steve McQueen address the media at the 51st New York Film Festival

New York Film Festival Opens with Tom Hank's Captain Phillips

Director Paul Greengrass examines the 2009 hiiacking of a U.S. container ship by Somali pirates

Review and photos by Dwght Casimere

NEW YORK--Captain Phillips is director  Paul Greengrass's gripping account of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a rag-tag crew of Somali pirates. Tom Hanks is in the titled role as Captain Richard Phillips and accomplishes another Oscar worthy performance. The first actor in 50 years to be awarded back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards (Philadelphia-1993, Forrest Gump-1994), his portrayal is already garnering Oscar buzz. Director Paul Greengrass is already known for his pulse-quickening work in such feature films as The Bourne Supremacy and Bloody Sunday. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and a Best Original Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild of America for his work on United 93, another fact-based action thriller on the heroic deeds of passengers during the downing of a commercial jet by Islamic terrorists on 9/11.
 Captain Phillips co-star Barkhad Abdi of Somalia
Dwight Casimere with Barkhad Abdi who played the Somali pirate captain in Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips star Tom Hanks with co-star Barkhad Abdi and director Paul Greengrass

There are no soft-shaded dissolves or swelling orchestral interludes in Greengrass's heart-pounding accounting of the hijacking. Instead, the camera hones in on the central characters and follows them in an almost documentary style, allowing the action to unfold with an unblinking eye. The score, as it were, almost mimics the mechanically rhythmic and unrelenting pounding of the massive ship's own engines. Everything about the film breathes authenticity, from the script, written by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) based on Captain Richard Phillip's own personal rendering of the events in his book "A Captain's Day," to the use of the actual Navy ships, personnel and helicopters, including the USS Halyburton, which was the ship used in the 2009 rescue mission. Captain Richard Phillips was present at the New York Premiere and walked the Red Carpet along with Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Paul Greengrass. (According to media reports, one of the Navy Seals who was part of the mission and who reportedly made a cameo appearance in the film, slipped into the New York Premiere undetected by the phalanx of media on the Red Carpet.)
Reality was the name of the game in the filming of Captain Phillip. Maersk provided a merchant vessel that was almost identical to the Maersk Alabama, the Alexander. Her crew of 22 merchant mariners remained on board during the two and a half months of filming to man the ship. The Navy provided the USS Truxton, an almost identical match, to stand in for the 510-foot-long guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge that was actually used in the rescue operation. Real life officers and sailors served on the ship along with two sailors who actually participated in the 2009 rescue mission. A civilian SEAL advisor secured the services of ten former SEALD to take the roles of the men who carried out the close-in sniper operation. 

At the news conference following the press screening of Captain Phillips on the day of the premiere, 
Greengrass elucidated. "The entire film was shot at sea with the full cooperation and support of the US Navy. In fact, they insisted upon being involved. So everything you see in the film is real, including the scene where the pirates board the ship. That was not CG. In fact, that was one of the most difficult and dangerous scenes to shoot."
In the movie, pirates board the huge Maersk Alabama climbing ladders from a tiny makeshift skiff, that looks more like the boats used by soon-to-be-drowning refugees than a band of professional outlaws.
"We went through weeks of rigorous training," said Abdi, a first-time film actor, who had the daunting task of matching wits standing toe-to-toe with arguably one of the best actors in the world. "The whole thing was frightening, especially because I can't swim. I also had to learn to climb. I should have been scared, but that wasn't an option, when you're clinging to a flimsy ladder 100 feet above the surging water, the only thought you have is "I have to get to the top of that ship!"

Greengrass humanizes the Somali pirates, rather than painting them as one dimensional villains. He takes us almost immediately to the Somali village where they are almost forced into criminal action by a band of Uzi-wielding warlords. The pirate skiffs are a way out of the grinding poverty of the village where the inhabitants, including the pirates, eat a constant diet of khat, an hallucinogenic plant which also, conveniently, suppresses the appetite in a land where food is scarse. The pirates can be seen stuffing their razor-thin cheeks with the substance. Things start to unravel go haywire when they run out of their dietary and psychological crutch.

Moving the ships around in surging waters also proved to be a daunting and dangerous task. "The sea can be calm one minute and then erupt into giant swells the next.  Getting all of the ships and the helicopter and the rescue team in position for the final rescue scene was a monumental logistical endeavor. Not to mention the job of maneuvering the five hundred foot container ship."

Not only were the most dramatic scenes filmed in realistic fashion, the final scene, where Captain Phillips was brought onboard the rescue ship and taken to the ship's infirmary and examined by Navy medical personnel, was filmed in the actual infirmary where the event occured and, by happenstance, with members of the medical team who attended the real Captain Phillips in 2009.  "We were taking a tour of the ship to see where we might shoot some interior scenes. We had tried to shoot the final scene elsewhere, but it just didn't seem to work out. When we went below decks and walked through the infirmary, we learned that the Navy personnel on duty that day, including the captain in charge of the medical team, were the same people who had attended top Captain Phillips in 2009. We decided right then and there to set up lights and shoot the final scene there. After the medical staff got over the initial jitters of being on camera, it went smoothly. It turned out to be one of the most moving  scenes in the film because it had the ring of truth. That's the most important thing about the entire film is that all of the actors and the crew strove to find the truth in every situation depicted in the film."