Secuestro: A Story of a Kidnapping

Debut docu by Camila Motta deals with the complex problem of kidnapping in Colombia, which can be classified as a business venture. Every seven hours someone in Colombia is kidnapped, 90% of them for money. "Secuestro" (Kidnapping) centers on one case, that of Motta's sister Silvia, who was held from March-June 1985.

Debut docu by Camila Motta deals with the complex problem of kidnapping in Colombia, which can be classified as a business venture. Every seven hours someone in Colombia is kidnapped, 90% of them for money. “Secuestro” (Kidnapping) centers on one case, that of Motta’s sister Silvia, who was held from March-June 1985.

Besides selected stylized re-enactments, docu features interviews with Silvia , her influential banker father, the police and even one of the kidnappers, along with audio tapes of negotiations by phone with the kidnappers, who eventually received about 10% of their original $ 600,000 asking price.

Docu takes a step-by-step chronological approach, and Motta maintains tension as she extends Silvia’s case to further concerns: The kidnapper justifies his actions in sociopolitical terms as a way to redistribute wealth; the mother is rejected as a negotiator simply because she is a woman, and the police view everything as a mere business deal.

The methodology of the kidnappers is surprisingly professional: Their research includes a complete review of the father’s assets and those of his friends, and of the individual routines of each of the five children. Nothing is left to chance.

Although Silvia’s presence is felt throughout in the form of voiceover descriptions of her captivity and tapes to her father, Motta deliberately keeps Silvia’s image absent until negotiations are completed and she is freed. In a highly textured soundtrack of voices, Silvia’s words permeate the film, often intruding upon the talking-head commentaries by those involved in her liberation. Her very absence becomes a type of presence.

The rich photography counterpoints this soundtrack with a montage of images, interviews, recreations, still photos, slow-motion and hand-held camera work and alternating use of color and b&w.

With “Secuestro,” Motta shows a firm hand, avoiding easy sentimentality and creating a document that functions as an indictment of a system that has established itself between the haves and the have-nots. As a result of the sensitive subject matter, merely screening the film has been problematic in its country of origin.

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Secuestro: A Story of a Kidnapping

(COLOMBIAN-U.S. -- DOCU -- 16mm)

Production: An E.M. Films production. Produced by Camila Motta, Barry Ellsworth. Directed , written by Camila Motta.

Crew: Camera (color/b&w), Ellsworth; editor, Holly Fisher; music, German Arrietta, Nicolas Uribe; sound, Heriberto Garcia. Reviewed at Americas Film Festival, AFI, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 1993. Running time: 92 MIN.

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