Captain Scrooge: Oscar Nominee Barkhad Abdi Tells His Rags to Not Quite Riches Story

Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi tells his rags to not quite riches story in the New Yorker.

If there was any semblance of multi-dimensional storytelling (shades of grayness) to the Hollywood-ized account that pitted Tom Hanks and Navy SEALs against teenage Somali pirates, it came from a breakout performance from Barkhad Abdi. As cringeworthy as Captain Phillips was to watch (Paul Greengrass' "true story" serum had audiences knowing who to root for/against from the very moment America's sweetheart appeared on screen), the first time actor brought a notion of humanity to a role historically given one dimensional credence. For his portrayal of Abduwali Muse (whose own account of the events we hope to someday hear), Abdi won a BAFTA earlier this month for best "Supporting Actor." This weekend the Somali-born/Minnesota-based (brand)newcomer is up against Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill, and Jared Leto at the Oscars. Abdi is arguably the one positive development to come out of the problematic "Best Picture" contender. And yet, the Academy Award nominee tells the New Yorker's Dana Goodyear that he was paid $65,000 for his work on the $55 million film. Further, according to the piece, every time the studio trots him out to L.A. to promote the $200 million+ grossing film, he subsists on a per diem good solely at the Beverly Hilton (where the studio likes to put him up). The interview goes on to explain that the town car is available only for official publicity events. Moreover, Abdi's clothes are loaners– a striking revelation in light of the rags-to-riches (or "limo driver to contender") narrative making the rounds. How Barkhad Abdi Came to Star in 'Captain Phillips' is featured in the March 3rd edition of the New Yorker. Read an excerpt from it below:

"Abdi, who learned to swim, shoot, and steer a skiff, now finds himself in a predicament similar to Muse's at the time of the film's action: having improbably boarded the ship, he realizes that his grasp on power is tenuous, and he is still waiting for a payday. For his work on Captain Phillips, a fifty-five-million-dollar film, Abdi earned sixty-five thousand dollars. That was more than two years ago. After filming, he went back to work for his brother, selling mobile phones at his shop in a Somali-run mall in Cedar-Riverside. He shook his head and smiled. 'How I thought about it was, like, When the movie came out, reviews either gonna be good or bad. Either way, I cannot be working here.' On the day of the premiere he quit.

When Abdi is in Los Angeles to promote the film, he subsists on a per diem, good at the Beverly Hilton, where the studio likes to put him up. The town car is available only for official publicity events. His clothes are loaners. Recently, Abdi requested that he be allowed to stay at a commuter's hotel near LAX, to be closer to his friend, a Somali cabdriver from Minneapolis, who shuttles him around for free. After the Oscars, Abdi plans to move to L.A. His roommate will be Faysal Ahmed, the big guy, who has has an agent, too."

>>>Read The Rest of Dana Goodyear's How Barkhad Abdi Came to Star in 'Captain Phillips' Here:

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.