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: 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)


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

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

  • Sacha Baron Cohen

    Why Sacha Baron Cohen Credits Donald Trump for ‘Who Is America?’

    Over the course of history, comedians have shared their take on current events with biting commentary on everything from class and gender to fashion and politics, and the current presidential administration is definitely no exception — with President Donald Trump regularly lampooned on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and by late-night TV hosts. But when [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content