Harvey Critic - 11/08

SEQUESTRO (Kidnapping), Grade: B

There are reasons that tourists go to Rio, to the Amazon jungle, to Salvador de Bahía, but not to São Paulo-except to disembark and take a domestic aircraft to a place more amenable to travelers. One is that Brazil's largest city is for business. It is filled with skyscrapers and the hum of traffic with no beaches or waterfalls to speak of. Perhaps a more important reason is the explosion of crime. São Paulo is the most crime-ridden big city in the Western Hemisphere. Many of its criminals have realized that sticking up stories is not the most lucrative way to make a living so they have resorted to kidnapping. In many cases, even after ransom is paid, the victim is killed. In one particular case documented by Jorge W. Atalla in "Sequestro" ("Kidnapping") a small child is rescued, one who was destined to be killed whether or not ransom was paid because she knew the abductor: her nanny.

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SEQUESTRO (Kidnapping)

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter

By Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Directed By: Jorge W. Atalla
Written By: Caio Cavechini
Screened at: William Morris Endeavor, NYC, 8/10/10
Opens: September 20, 2010

The above is just one case on display in a documentary that takes on the characteristics of docudrama. Its great achievement is that the director was allowed by the DAS, the Anti-Kidnapping division of the Brazilian police, to follow the SWAT-like teams whenever they were to execute an arrest or when they would camp out in the home of a victim's father, mother or son or daughter, at which time we in the audience can eavesdrop on the vulgar conversation. The kidnapper phones the victim's home, calling the family member a "son-of-a-bitch." Hey, who's the son-of-a-bitch here? Talk about projection!

With the action bolstered by Tuta Aquino, Fernando Pinheiro and Vitor Rocha's original score, edited by Marcelo Moraes and Marcelo Bala, and photographed all over the city by Arturo Querzoli, "Sequestro" puts us in the audience right behind the police forces of in the victim's family's living room, capturing an assortment of emotions. In the most dramatic case, a fourteen-year-old boy who is handcuffed and told he will soon be shot or stabbed finds emotions too overwhelming to express in the neat way that Hollywood deals with such melodrama. He continues to cry out, "I can't believe it. I can't believe it." His eyes go wide, he is speechless for several minutes, then breaks down in tears as he hugs a couple of members of the DAS.

Also dramatic are the actual arrests, in which the DAS people, usually a number of men and one woman, are able to get the captured kidnappers to name their accomplices, though one wonders why they are offering such easy admissions of collective guilt. The kidnappers are a motley crew, some looking like ordinary businessmen, others scruffy and sullen.

While the work that has gone into this production is amazing, the police gradually accepting the filmmakers for the publicity they are giving them, the action becomes increasingly repetitious. An arrest is followed by statements of the DAS and the culprits, a victim is saved, an arrest goes down once again, a victim is not saved as in one case in which the victim has been buried in a shallow grave. One of the principal motives of the kidnappers is receiving money that's funneled to leftist causes around South America, including the MIR in Chile (of which I had never heard before). This action is more important than ever since the former Soviet Union stopped financing such organizations with the end of the Cold War. These perps consider themselves political prisoners and do not want to be housed with common criminals. As the police remark, putting them with the regular riff-raff was a bad idea: the common criminals were given instruction by the political guys on methods to use if they want to become abductors themselves.

Rated R. 94 minutes. © 2010 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

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