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'Sequestro' is a riveting but disturbing documentary film from Brazil Phillip Brents | Fri, Sep 10 2010 03:49 AM

Opening in theaters this week is “Sequestro,” a disturbing documentary from director/writer Jorge W. Atalla, Paradigm Pictures and MidMix Entertainment.

This film tells the story of a film crew who go on a four-year exploration of a disturbing trend in Sao Paulo, and the whole of Brazil itself — kidnapping. The crew follows the Ibiapina family as  father Jose has been taken for ransom. What is going on in this country?

Quite simply, the history is this: the writer cites the end of the Cold War that stopped funds from reaching the Leftist movements. Cuba assembled a group called Departmento America that was committed to kidnapping as a way of financing Latin American guerilla activities.

Somewhere along the way it has become a pastime. From four kidnappings in 1986, the numbers have reached more than 400 people in Sao Paulo — 1,500 in Brazil — with an intake of $7.7 million  in the last 10 years.

Now, in Sao Paulo, there is an anti-kidnapping police division whose only job is to recover those who have been taken — women, men, the elderly and even children — no one is safe when money is the motive. These police work with the Ibiapina family to track down their father before time runs out.

This is a look at what is real — and those affected by it.

Final word: This is a very emotional documentary. The viewer is taken on a roller coaster ride of history through the birth of this crime and what it has grown into today. Once a way for “revolutionaries” to make their point, even they, from behind prison walls, believe these kidnappings are a violent act and merely extortion. Ironic isn’t it?

As the police trace one suspect after another, those who have been abducted tell their stories with heart, with courage and an amazing amount of strength. They bravely recount their capture and, in some cases, violent treatment at the hands of their captors.

Even more emotional is the telling of their lives today and the fears that it will happen to them again. In the midst of the sadness there are moments of pure joy as the police, and cameras, are there to record the moments of success as families are reunited.

The division also has a strong impact on those officers who work within it. As in the case of the Ibiapina family, the police become close to the families and share in their pain and agony, which takes a toll on their own lives.

In the anti-kidnapping police division, finding victims alive is their goal, bringing down the criminals is their purpose and reuniting them with their families is their reward!

Tubs of popcorn: I give “Sequestro” three-and-a-half tubs of popcorn out of five. This is a documentary filled with so many emotions. There is surprise that this is not given coverage in the world news spotlight. Add to that mix rage, helplessness and confusion that one human being would do this to another.

Watching the events unfold, from the harassing and mentally exhausting telephone calls of the extortionists to the blatant disregard for humanity, can only be called riveting. The living conditions of abducted, as well as the sometimes-lengthy periods of silence, are hard to comprehend, yet those who survived show us all the will to live.

From captive time periods up to 70 days, it’s a race against time and money.


Latino film festival now playing at Otay Ranch Town Center
Media Arts Center San Diego’s San Diego Latino Film Festival and Otay Ranch Town Center are co-hosting the fourth annual °Que Viva! Cine Latino 2010 during September in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Screenings are scheduled Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the center’s food pavilion. Remaining dates include Sept. 15, 22 and 29.

All film screenings are free and open to the public. Films will be in English and Spanish (with English subtitles). The schedule for each evening will include the following:

An art and music segment featuring Latino artists and live music with local Latino groups, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Screening of short films and Latino feature films, starting at 7:30 p.m. The film schedule is as follows:

Sept. 15: “A Mi Me Gusta” (PG-13)

Sept. 22: “Carlitos” (PG)

Sept. 29: “La Mission” (R)

For more event information visit the Web site at www.sdlatinofilm.com.

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