×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sequestro (Kidnapping)

Fly-on-the-wall shooting offers a tutorial on how to get inside a story.

With:
With: Humberto Paz, Horacio Paz, Jose Ibiapina de Souza. (Portuguese dialogue)

Auds might feel they’ve been taken hostage during certain parts of “Sequestro (Kidnapping),” but Brazilian helmer Jorge W. Atalla’s docu is ultimately electrifying both in what it reveals and how it reveals it. Fly-on-the-wall shooting offers a tutorial on how to get inside a story, from the hostage negotiations to the arrests and rescues performed by Sao Paulo’s Anti-Kidnapping Police Division, which Atalla followed for four-plus years, through myriad crises and confrontations. A feature version is reportedly in the works, but reality provides the magic of this “Sequestro,” set to open theatrically Sept. 10 in New York and Los Angeles.

Front-loaded with graphics, data and ominous music, the docu takes a bit of time in setting up its thesis, but the wait is worthwhile: With the collapse of the USSR and a cutoff of Soviet funding to leftist groups around the world, Marxist factions in South America increasingly resorted to kidnapping to raise money. Where the Brazilian government and others went wrong was incarcerating the perpetrators together with an apolitical and ruthless prison population. Those who had seen kidnapping as a political act — or even an “art,” as one veteran leftist says — instructed their less high-minded prison mates, sometimes under duress, on the finer points of for-profit abduction.

Kidnapping thus boomed in Sao Paulo, a city of 18 million people (and 500 kidnappings in 2000, when the anti-kidnap division was formed).

Atalla got the police department to cooperate with his film; he had to comply with their rules, which included the cops not being responsible for Atalla or his crew. The results are as intimate a look at crimefighting and resolution as one is likely to see in a docu, especially regarding the rescue of kidnap victims, with several of these moments captured live.

So are the arrests, which, as documented by Atalla’s fleet-footed cameraman, Arturo Querzoli, suggest a special episode of “Cops” as directed by Martin Scorsese. Sometimes, in fact, Atalla — and his invaluable editing team of Marcelo Moraes and Marcelo Bala — get overly baroque in their use of some already feverish crime footage. But this is balanced by Atalla’s interviews with kidnap victims, and the suggestion of the tedium that families are forced to contend with when one of their own goes missing.

Several cases are followed; the narrative throughline is the abduction of Jose Ibiapina de Souza, who was held for 33 days and whose case is updated throughout the film via the real-life phone calls made by the criminals to Ibiapina’s son, Alessandro. A kidnapper affecting a falsetto berates Alessandro Ibiapina with demands for more money than the young man can raise, threatening repeatedly to kill the father, to the great distress of his son.

Two of the film’s better moments are far less dramatic: One is an officer’s explanation of how one kidnap case was cracked — it’s standard police-procedural stuff but also offers the sort of look inside the investigate process the film could have used more of. The other moment is the very moving release of a traumatized hostage; he doesn’t seem to notice the cameras, but then, no one does: Atalla and his crew were either considered too insignificant to matter, given the high drama they were recording, or they pulled off some kind of a docu-disappearing act. Either way, the footage will ensure a captive audience.

Sequestro (Kidnapping)

Brazil

Production: A Yukon Filmworks and Midmix Entertainment presentation in association with Filmland Intl. and Paradigm Pictures. (International sales: Paradigm Pictures, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jorge W. Atalla, Alexandre Moreira Leite. Executive producers, Frederico Lapenda, Christian Gudegast. Co-producer, L.G. Tubaldini Jr. Directed by Jorge W. Atalla. Written by Atalla, Caio Cavechini.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, HD); Arturo Querzoli; editors, Marcelo Moraes, Marcelo Bala; music, Tuta Aquino, Fernando Pinheiro, Vitor Rocha; sound, Emerson Rigoni, Manasses Marciano, Luiz Carlos Clemente Junior; associate producers, Felipe Barcelos, Ines Maciel Figueiro, Pablo Pessanha, Renata Reis. (In Los Angeles Latino Film Festival; 2009 Rio de Janeiro Film Festival.) Reviewed at William Morris Endeavor screening room, New York, Aug. 10, 2010. Running time: 94 MIN.

Cast: With: Humberto Paz, Horacio Paz, Jose Ibiapina de Souza. (Portuguese dialogue)

More Scene

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Tina KnowlesSoul of Nation: Art in

    Jay-Z, Tina Knowles Celebrate New 'Soul of a Nation' Exhibit at Broad Museum

    “This show is so important. I mean, it’s our history — and it’s a very important part of our journey,” Tina Knowles Lawson said about Friday night’s opening of the exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963 – 1983” at the Broad Museum in DTLA. “I’m just so impressed [...]

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Nick Offerman Amy Poehler

    'Parks and Recreation' Cast Talks Possibility of a Revival at 10th Anniversary Reunion

    For one night, Hollywood felt a little like Pawnee. The cast of NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” reunited at PaleyFest on Thursday in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary. The whole Pawnee gang showed up: Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Jim [...]

  • Andy CohenThe Shops and Restaurants at

    Andy Cohen to Receive Vito Russo Award at GLAAD Media Awards

    Mazel, Andy Cohen! Bravo’s late-night talk show host is set to receive the Vito Russo Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 4 in New York City. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' Sarah Jessica Parker will present him with the [...]

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content