Review: ‘My Kidnapper’

The personal diary film assumes particular relevance in "My Kidnapper," a fascinating docu about the search for closure.

The personal diary film assumes particular relevance in “My Kidnapper,” a fascinating docu about the search for closure. In 2003, British filmmaker Mark Henderson, among eight unlucky tourists in Colombia, was taken by left-wing guerrillas and held for 101 days before being released. His decision to eventually return, with three other abductees, to the scene of the crime, followed a five-year exchange of emails begun by one of his kidnappers. Mentally and physically retracing their traumatic trek through spectacular junglescapes, the former hostages debate post-colonial geopolitics. Docu is skedded for extended fest and global tube play.

Only three of the original hostages accept Henderson’s invitation to accompany him back to Colombia under heavily armed escort: Israeli men Erez Eltawil and Ido Guy, and the sole captive woman, a German named Reinihilt Weigel (herself emailed by a co-kidnapper, the girlfriend of Henderson’s correspondent). Upon arriving, their ordeal comes flooding back: Incoherent gestures and the shakiness of a handheld camera replicate their initial confusion, while glimpses of their army escort visually suggest the coercion they endured under similarly armed guerrillas.

Three of the former hostages kept journals during their forced confinement, and their present-day recollections are layered by these overlapping accounts (or, in Weigel’s case, drawings). Densely interpersonal exchanges among the former hostages are counterpointed by lone individual musings, voiced over a stark tableaux of mountains or treetops obscured by swirling mist.

Even the Colombian guerrillas’ rationale is represented via interview footage taken by Henderson in his meeting, late in the film, with former kidnapper Antonio (shown in profile, only half visibly, against a black backdrop as he speaks).

Increasingly, as the story is rehashed, the main conflict arises not between captives and captors, but between the two Israelis and the two Europeans over their radically oppositional worldviews. Henderson and Weigel had cooperated with and engaged the guerrillas, attempting to make their abductors see them as human beings. Once they discovered they were being held not for money, but to pressure governments to investigate human-rights abuses by paramilitaries, they began to sympathize somewhat, or at least hope their detainment served a purpose. Eltawil and Guy, meanwhile, had done everything possible to impede their former captors, dismissing their ideological beliefs.

As a news story, the pic (co-helmed by Henderson and Kate Horne) lacks coherence, given that the sequence of events is often unclear and several narrative threads are left hanging. But as a chronicle of different reactions to the trauma of abduction, and the culture shock experienced by inhabitants of developed countries thrust into a decades-long, three-way civil war where nothing registers as morally straightforward, “My Kidnapper” succeeds brilliantly.

My Kidnapper



A ZDF, Sundance Channel, IBA Israeli Television, CBC News Network, Channel 4 BritDoc Foundation presentation of a Renegade Pictures production in association with SBS-TV Australia, DR Byen, Yleisradio Oy. Produced by Mark Henderson, Kate Horne. Executive producers, Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Alan Hayling, Jess Search, Lynn Kirby, Ann Rose, Itay Nevo-Landsberg, Catherine Olsen, Mette Hoffman Meyer, Iikka Vehkalahti. Directed by Mark Henderson, Kate Horne.


Camera (color, HD), Guillermo Galdos, Tom Swindell; editors, Rupert Houseman, Tom Herrington; music, Richard Spiller; sound, Cesar Perez. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Aug. 6, 2010. (In New York Latino Film Festival; Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.) Running time: 83 MIN.


Mark Henderson, Reinihilt Weigel, Ido Guy, Erez Eltawil. (English, Spanish dialogue)

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety