Sequestrada

This is a weird one. Tim Blake Nelson, who furnished the voice of a cockroach in 1996’s Joe’s Apartment, here essays a similar role as Thomas, the representative of an American energy concern that, as the back of the Sequestrada DVD case informs us, is “building an illegal damn [sic] in the Amazon.” Thomas has come to Brazil to convince a tribe of semi-civilized jungle Indians, the Arara, to acquiesce in the face of a massive development project that threatens to displace them from their land. He encounters fiercer resistance than he bargained for, however, when Roberto (Marcelo Olinto), a local pen-pusher and liaison with the area’s Indians, frames Thomas for kidnapping a girl from the Arara. Roberto himself is the creep who is hiding the underage girl, Kamodjara (Kamodjara Xipaia), in his hotel room and preventing her from finding her way back to her family. What starts out as a pretty bland travelogue-cum-ethnography actually starts to get entertaining when Kamodjara’s incensed tribesmen abduct Thomas from a police station, haul him back to their home in a boat, and hold him as a prisoner in the jungle. Unfortunately, Sequestrada risks blurring the line between the depiction of pedophilia and the commission of child abuse in more than one scene between Roberto and his unwilling companion. In getting across that Roberto is sexually tempted by a girl who looks to be approximately twelve years old, for instance, was it really necessary for the camera to show his point of view by lingering on the girl’s rear end or to show him leering down at her as her head is in his lap?

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Sequestrada is:

Feminism-skeptical. Kamodjara, when she arrives in the big city, is interested in locating a place she heard about where women live self-sufficiently without any men, and she later recounts a myth about the pieces of a chopped-up snake transforming into men who attack a girl, men being untrustworthy and reptilian in origin. If anything, however, Kamodjara’s ordeal demonstrates a girl’s vulnerability without her father.

Anti-white. The white men in the film, whether American or Portuguese Brazilian, seek to exploit and dominate what is not theirs. Kamodjara explains that “my people tried to live with the wild beasts and the brancos [i.e., whites]. But the brancos kill our river. They created a monster wall to kill my river. They lie. I will not live with their lies.”

Green. “Hundreds more dams are planned for the Amazon, which would release a flood of toxic greenhouse gases, accelerating catastrophic climate change,” a blurb at the end of the movie alleges, adding, “The effect of Amazon rainforest being destroyed is so immense, no scientist can fully calculate it.” Sequestrada’s credits give a “Special Thanks” to “climate finance” operation the Climate Policy Initiative and acknowledge “Additional Support” from United Nations University, the Henry Luce Foundation, Tinker Foundation, and George Washington University. Whatever their ultimate agenda, it certainly wasn’t promotion of Brazilian tourism.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.