The Outsider




An inside story from a man who sees himself as an outsider.

The Outsider

Thomas Meadmore's documentary The Outsider leaves the impression that it is really two films in one. On the one hand, it is about possible criminality on the part of banks explored through the assertions made against them on the part of the Taiwanese businessman and shipping magnate Nobu Su. On the other, the film is a detailed portrait of Nobu Su himself and, as such, it offers what is close to being a biopic since it covers so much of his life. Putting both aspects together might have made for a rich film but for the fact that in the event the two sides clash.


Recently we had a documentary about that controversial figure James 'Bo' Gritz and that film, Erase and Forget, left me hugely dissatisfied because he was allowed to tell his story in his own words. At times The Outsider reminded me of that because for much of its length Nobu Su narrates on his own terms. He tells of inheriting a shipping company from his father when it was down on its luck but then using his own astute and canny insights into the business to build it up into a worldwide enterprise. Knowing that because of his background he is widely seen as an outsider, Nobu Su dresses smartly to create an image that will impress. Similarly, even if he gave Meadmore a free hand over what he put in the final cut, whenever Nobu Su is on screen The Outsider comes over as a promotional film. And that's no less so when disaster strikes and his ships are seized to pay debts because he can put the blame for his situation on the consequences of the banking crisis of 2008. In particular, Nobu Su's own investigations lead him to make claims against the Royal Bank of Scotland over account rigging and against Taiwan's Mega Bank for unfair treatment. Here he presents himself not as a gambler who lost but as a victim whose refusal to be cowed makes him the film's hero.


However, the rest of the film, which might have been better suited to the printed word or to a television programme, consists of investigative journalism that pinpoints Nobu Su's obsessions, shows him side-stepping when asked about his treatment of his crews when ships were arrested and comes to the conclusion that nobody can be sure of the truth. Consequently, the two sides of the picture conflict with one another for much of the time. He may admit to having let down his neglected family, but, when Nobu Su carries out an attempted reconciliation with his daughters, it is with the cameras rolling. Meanwhile, on his website he chooses to laud himself as 'inventor, environmentalist, philanthropist'. Some of the financial deals become rather technical but there is no doubt that The Outsider has an extraordinary tale to tell. Consequently it is never boring, but the broken-backed approach makes the film far less rewarding than one might have hoped.




Featuring  Nobu Su, Seth Freedman, Sabruto Banerji, Sam Chambers, Alan Hooper, David Osler, Michelle Wiese Blockmann, Michel Guy, Mark Rifkin.


Dir Thomas Meadmore, Pro Thomas Meadmore, Written by Thomas Meadmore, Ph Alfredo de Juan, Ed Thomas Meadmore, Music Russell Fawcus and Felicity Hunter.


Sun Moon Productions-Miracle Comms.
99 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 20 April 2018. Cert. PG.