Kidnapping: Jorge W. Atalla’s Chronicle of Kidnapping in Brazil

Jorge W. Atalla’s documentary, “Kidnapping” (“Sequestro”), chronicles the series of economic kidnappings in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the specialized police team formed to combat the epidemic.

What had first begun in the 1980’s as a political crime committed by Leftist guerilla idealists increasingly escalated into random hostage situations perpetrated by common criminals for profit in the 1990’s.  As a government response to the increased terror of the population and growing occurrence of extortion through kidnappings, a special Anti-Kidnapping Division (Divisão Anti-Sequestro aka DAS) was created in Sao Paulo in 2001.

Atalla’s documentary was eight years in the making and required him to first enter into four years of negotiation with both the police and government officials before finally being granted unprecedented access into the world of DAS, which he documented over a four year period from 2005-2009.  During the time of filming, 376 people were kidnapped in the state of Sao Paulo.

“Kidnapping” (“Sequestro”) profiles compelling cases of victims aged from six years old to 82 years old from a variety of economic backgrounds, and the combination of DAS’ dedication, passion and strategies that lead to their ultimate release.  In addition to featuring exclusive interviews with former members of the Revolutionary Leftist Movement of Chile that participated in the kidnap attempt of Brazilian supermarket mogul Abilio Diniz in the late 1980’s, victims also speak for the first time of the tragedy of their lives in captivity and the hardships they encounter with life after abduction, including the “freedom” they never had again.

Since being formed, DAS has managed to reverse the escalating trend of kidnapping and extortion that at its peak resulted in more than 500 reported cases per year and an additional 1,500 unreported kidnapping crimes per year, utilizing its specific intelligence unit, SWAT-type training and abilities and expertise in negotiation.

Atalla is best known for his award-winning 2000 documentary “In Cane for Life” (“A Vide em Cana”). Chronicling the hardships of sugar cane workers, Atalla lived in the fields with the workers for six months to gain the access he needed to provide an intimate portrait of their lives.  He holds an Economics degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters from the Business School Lausanne in Switzerland.

Executive producer Frederico Lapenda is best known as one of the founding fathers of MMA, the globally renowned mixed martial arts fighting movement, the fastest growing ultimate sport in the US.  As a producer, his television credits include four highly-rated programs for television’s Fox Files, including Russian Night Life and Amsterdam: The Red Light District in addition to MMA around the World, Underground Fighting in California, and the weekly cable show Combate Mortal.  His feature film producing credits include Blonde and Blonder, Fathers of the Sports, Bad Guys, Shut Up & Shoot, Nightmare Man and The Perfect Game, the true story of a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico who become the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series, that releases nationwide in the US on April 16, 2010.

Jorge W. Atalla is director/writer/producer of “Kidnapping” (“Sequestro”) and Alexandre Moreira Leite is producer.  Executive producers are Frederico Lapenda and Christian Gudegast.   Downtown Filmes holds South American distribution rights.  Worldwide sales are being handled by Paradigm Pictures.

The Beverly Hills Film Festival runs from April 14-18, 2010, at the Clarity Theater in Beverly Hills: www.beverlyhillsfilmfestival.com