Sequestro Caracas

February 22, 2008

Caracas - Two Cities

“Sequestro Express” is a harrowing film about the ordeal of two affluent young people who are kidnapped in Caracas, Venezuela. The title translates as “Kidnap Express”. Watching the film is like being one of the victims, and it’s not a pleasant experience – the director was himself kidnapped at one time, so the emotional feel is intense. The female victim comes through with her life – she isn’t raped either – but as the lead to the film tells us, a kidnapping happens once every 60 minutes in Latin America, and most of the victims do not survive – “this is the story of just one of them.”

The criminals are sadistic and brutal, but they are human after all. They take calls from their kids and their parents while they are “working.” One of them wants to be an artist. Another is a bit of a thinker – he tells the woman victim that, yes, everyone gets robbed, but only the ones who “flaunt” their wealth get treated with such hatred. The police are corrupt and criminal themselves.

80% of the country lives in miserable poverty: As the director says at the end, the choice is simple – “Confront the beast, or invite it to dinner.” As he says in this fascinating interview:

…it was even for myself a real journey of education and understanding of the way that people – 80% of the people live in poverty in my country – the way they live, the way they think, and why this is the fastest growing crime in Latin America.”

The opening credit sequence of the film includes an aerial pan over the city showing images like the one above, and I think this one in particular encapsulates the idea behind the film. On the right, the sprawling, unplanned, crowded, ramshackle ghetto covering the hills that surround the city. On the left, the ordered, geometrical, spacious, flatlands of where the city of civil society, capitalism, and affluence is placed. [Unlike the USA, in Latin American cities, the well-to-do live in the center, the poor live in the outlying hills.] Two cities, two geographies, two terrains, both economically, socially, morally, medically…on and on. Can a society be a society and live this way?