by Tony Medley
Run time 94 minutes.
OK for children.
According to this film, when
the cold war ended the former Soviet Union stopped funding leftist
movements. So the “Departamento América” assembled a group dedicated to
commit kidnappings, heists, and bombings to raise money to finance
Latin-American Guerrillas. In 1986 there were four kidnappings in
Brazil; in 1989, there were eight. In the case of the kidnapping of
Abilio Diniz, 5 Chileans, 2 Argentines, 2 Canadians, and 1 Brazilian
were arrested and imprisoned, all members of MIR, Chile’s Revolutionary
Movement. By 1992, there were 10 kidnappings and the kidnapping industry
had generated over $10 million. In 1994 there were 15 kidnappings. In
2001 the kidnappings skyrocketed to 362.
During four years, a film crew
followed the classified investigations and tactics of the São Paulo
Anti-Kidnapping Police Division. During that time, 376 people were
kidnapped in the State, over 1,500 in Brazil.
Written, produced and directed
by Jorge W. Atalla, the film is dedicated to “people who, even being
victims of one of the most cruel crimes committed, had the courage to
give their testimony to alert society of the need to protest itself and
fight for all its causes.”
The cameras show the horror of
kidnapping much better than a scripted show like Law and Order.
They capture the tension and terror of confrontations between the
kidnapper and the victim’s family. They show victims’ families talking
to the kidnappers over taped telephone conversations, showing the
brutality of the kidnappers. Shown with hand-held cameras are actual
videos of the police tracking down the criminals, their strategizing,
the advice they give the victims’ families, and the actual captures of
several of the kidnappers.
The film also includes
interviews with captured kidnappers, who dispassionately adopt the guise
of simple, gentle people working for a political belief. They show no
appreciation for the horror they cause. They are true sociopaths,
belying their avuncular images. Their victims include young children
under seven years of age, one beautiful young woman, and an elderly man
who was deprived of the more than 10 pills a day he required to keep
healthy, and they were all treated without the slightest compassion.
As Anderson “Andinho”, who
spent 22 days in captivity, says, “No matter what I tell you about my 22
days they’ll be just words. You have to live it to understand.”
Many of the victims are
interviewed and tell in detail of their ordeals and how they were
treated personally. Their stories draw a stark dichotomy between their
horrors and the calm, dispassionate defenses given by jailed kidnappers.
Then there are the videos of
the victims’ families being pressured to pay the money demanded. Again,
you dichotomize between the bland statements of the kidnappers
interviewed earlier in the film, who clearly don’t care about the
anguish they caused and the brutality of these conversations.
The film closes with the
police tracking down one of the victims. The cameras follow close behind
and capture the moment he’s found. You won’t soon forget the looks on
his face. First, the look of someone captured without hope, then the
realization that it is over, the relief and the tears. Among the film’s
final words are the kidnappee talking to his father on the telephone
moments after his discovery and release crying into the phone with
unabashed joy, “I love you. Dad, they found me!” In Portuguese.
September 7, 2010