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Nobu Su documentary raises more questions than it answers

Jenna Brown from Shipamax, the cloud software platform for the bulk shipping industry, attended Friday’s premiere of The Outsider, the Nobu Su documentary. Here are her thoughts.

Variously described on this site over the years as mercurial, flamboyant, divisive and shipping’s malcontent, the enigma that is Nobu Su now gets the silver screen treatment with the premiere in London on Friday of The Outsider, which looks into the rise and fall of this famous Asian shipping magnate. The film, described by director Tom Meadmore as Oceans 11 on the high seas, unearths all manner of alleged misdemeanours from the global financial crisis a decade ago.

An entertaining movie, its greatest success is making the bulk industry part-way accessible to real outsiders. Indisputably charming, Su compels the audience to understand why people fall in love with this magnificent industry. Like many others, Su was brought in through family ties and seeks the ultimate prize of becoming a master of beating the market. It’s a journey of snazzy suits, tall tales and family fallouts.

Sadly, the journey for Su ends at him being thoroughly cleaned out. Hit initially by the market crash, we see Su unhinged, consumed, trying to find an explanation for his misfortune. He demands someone (else) is held to account. By contrast, we witness the privilege that affords Su to shirk accountability for his own ‘misdemeanours’, including abandoning his own seafarers.

In a private Q&A session, Meadmore defended the movie as being an entertainment movie and one about a great character. In this respect, the movie gets top marks – in addition to Su’s story, contrasting opinions from industry experts added numerous moments of comedy.

However, as the film started to flirt with an investigation into one of Su’s many allegations, the narrative became confused. The movie becomes littered with red herrings, raising more questions than it answers.

And to the final question: who funded the movie, the director was certainly not giving up any answers.

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