Get ready to get dirty in São Paulo. Sequestro, which is Spanish for Kidnapping, is an emotionally and visually gripping documentary about the growth and the hopeful demise of kidnappings in some of the most horrifying places in the world. The award winning director takes his crew into places that almost no one has ever seen before and shows us what it’s really like within the world of sequestro from all sides of the situation.

Find out more about the documentary below…

The Players:

  • Director/Writer/Producer: Jorge W. Atalla
  • Producer: Alexandre Moreira Leite
  • Writer: Caio Cavechini
  • Director of Photography: Arturo Querzoli
  • Music Producer: Tuta Aquino
  • Original Score: Tuta Aquino, Fernando Pinheiro e Vitor Rocha

The Plot:

Award-winning filmmaker Atalla brings to the screen a powerful Brazilian documentary chronicling the heroic efforts of the Anti Kidnapping Division of the São Paulo police department (Divisão Anti-Sequestro aka DAS) from 2005 until 2009 – a time when kidnapping was booming business in Latin America’s largest city. The film often goes into in some of the most corrupt and dangerous neighborhoods in the world in order to capture for the first time ever on film, what it is like for police who risk life and limb busting into captive houses, in an attempt to find and free men, women, and children who have been violently separated from their families.

Some interesting statistics from the film:

  • 2001 – Official numbers estimate that 386 kidnappings occurred this year, but many went unreported. Divisão Anti-Sequestro (DAS) is formed.
  • 2005 – Approximately 180 kidnappings occurred.
  • 2008 – 2009 – Fewer than 60 kidnappings during this time.
  • December 2008 – No victims in captivity.
  • 2010 — Only 1 person was kidnapped in the state of São Paulo

The Good:

  • The Subject Matter: There has been a few different documentaries that have tried to shed light on the issue of kidnapping in all different parts of the world. This film is on par with the rest in terms of its quality, but stands apart because they are able to delve much deeper into the system than anyone has seen before.
  • The Footage: Though the coverage of the kidnappings themselves is sickeningly enthralling, what really strikes home is watching the family members who have to sit at home while their family members are kidnapped. It’s a sobering experience, because they look just like any family in the world and the director lets the camera keep rolling throughout the process and you can see the wide range of emotions all taking place.
  • The Representation of Both Sides: All the people in the film, from the victims to the kidnappers seemed well represented. The victims were given their chance to tell their true stories and be seen as strong survivors. And though you want to look at the kidnappers as horrible people, more often then not they’re victims themselves who have been coerced into doing this to save their own families or for food to survive. This isn’t a case of good guys vs. bad guys, it’s a case of desperate people not knowing what to do.
  • The Upside: Whenever you’re watching a documentary dealing with material of this nature, it’s comforting to know that within São Paulo the situation is in fact getting better. Though the message is still important since kidnappings are still happening all over the world, it’s nice to know that you can feel some sense of hope walking out of the theater.

The Bad:

  • Overall Cohesiveness: The story itself did wander quite a bit and at times it was hard to tell which family you were following and what was going on. It could have used a slightly more cohesive story, which could have been helped by more narration.
  • Credits: Though I like that they attempted to do so much with the opening credits, in order for them to really work they needed stronger music and some kind of narration or description for viewers to be able to fully understand them so that they could really hit home.


It’s a heavy film, but definitely worth seeing.

Rating: 7.75/10

The film hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles on September 10th.