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Editing

secuestro: a story of a kidnapping

1993  |  93 min
Camila Motta
Holly Fisher
Barry Ellsworth
Composers: German Arrieta & Nicolas Uribe

Producers: Barry Ellsworth & Camila Motta

Made with grants from NYC Council on the Arts & The National Endowment for the Arts

… SECUESTRO triumphs mainly in its evenhanded presentation of the rich-poor dichotomy in Colombia. … Ultimately, Motta’s directorial debut presents a frightening picture of the normalization of terror. …

– Paul Schultz, Daily News, January 19, 1994

synopsis

In Colombia, a kidnapping occurs every seven hours; in 1985, 20-year-old Sylvia Motta was abducted by 10 armed men. Secuestro, A Story of A Kidnapping, had its U.S. theatrical premiere Wednesday, January 19 at Film Forum. Director Camila Motta, the victim’s sister, recreates the harrowing three months during which Sylvia was chained to a bed while her father negotiated for her life. Motta builds a riveting story around remarkably candid interviews, including one with Juan, a construction worker moonlighting as one of Sylvia’s guards, and through actual recordings of the negotiation, which begin with a $450,000 price tag. Motta uses Sylvia’s voice, sometimes overlapping with other interviews, to create a vivid portrait of the psychological torment of her captivity. Footage of daily life in Colombia makes palpable the underlying extremes of wealth and poverty that have given rise to a turn of events in which the bizarre has become commonplace. (Since the completion of the film, it has become illegal for civilians to negotiate with kidnappers.)

press/reflections

SECUESTRO triumphs mainly in its evenhanded presentation of the rich-poor dichotomy in Colombia. The camera often pans by alternating scenes of urban squalor and suburban comfort, creating an impression of two distinct societies. In the hands of a less-skilled filmmaker, such images could explode into sensational agitprop. But Motta is restrained, smart: Though the kidnappers themselves claim they are fighting for equality (and income redistribution), the film never forgives them their crime. The Motta family members never seem to be demonized for their wealth.

In other words, what could have been a socialist rant is something richer – a document that points to the disparities in Colombia but does not try to indoctrinate the viewer. The group that really comes off badly in SECUESTRO is the cops. They take a decidedly detached stance as if saying: “We have the drug cartels to worry about. You rich people can handle this yourselves, okay?”

Camila Motta’s husband, Barry Ellsworth, has photographed SECUESTRO compellingly, cutting a grainy black-and-white reenactment of Sylvia’s captivity into the taped interviews and shots of Bogota.´  The music in the film is at times ominous, at times ironically light, as when festive party songs accompany pictures of poor Colombians.

Ultimately, Motta’s directorial debut presents a frightening picture of the normalization of terror.

—Paul Schultz, excerpted from review in Daily News, January 19, 1994

 

grants

Partially supported by the NYS Council on the Arts & The National Endowment for the Arts




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