Friday, July 15, 2011

My Kidnapper (2010)

There aren't many people more self-righteous than the former Colombian kidnap victim. The Queen of them all is of course Ingrid Betancourt, but not far behind in bleeting self-regard come the three Yanks who were snatched from the clutches La FARC at the same time. In comparison British TV-producer Brian Henderson and the eight tourists kidnapped in the Sierra Nevada are relatively small time, as indeed was the guerrilla organisation which took them, the ELN. And they got off lightly — just over three months in the jungle - compared to the more normal fate of local political and military captives.

I've waded through enough of this material to have garnered a sense of what most irks me about these accounts of what was clearly genuine hardship. Firstly, the former kidnapees are mostly in denial about the extent to which they were asking to be captured. Betancourt was warned not to campaign in a FARC controlled zone and the authors of Out of Captivity were ex-military civilian contractors flying interdiction missions over the guerrillas' installations, and yet repeatedly pour scorn on the FARC's tendency to regard them as enemy combatants and mercenaries. Meanwhile Henderson and the seven others the ELN picked up at La Ciudad Perdida had apparently been told the area was safe for tourists, yet we later learn somewhat indirectly that this is at best a partial truth, because one of them, the German Reini Weigel was subsequently sent the bill for her rescue by her government: relevant travel warnings were in place at the time. (The Germans do of course have the perfect word for the emotions welling up at this point in Henderson's documentary: schadenfreude.)

Secondly, their sense of their own importance is hard to square with their sense of the comparative unimportance of the conflicts that beset Colombia. Henderson's attempt to re-encounter and understand Antonio, one of his ELN guards, has a whiff of anthropological expedition about it. The committed guerrilla is exposed as a man living within a closed intellectual milieu and on at least one occasion Henderson uses the term 'the real world' to refer to the perspective of the cosmopolitan foreign outsider.

This sense that the issues that underlie the context for the kidnapping are informed by inherently myopic viewpoints and ideologies both narrow and shallow, provides an excuse for not providing any real analysis of them. And of course the kidnapped individuals are all exposed to the insurgency at grunt level, surely not the best place to comment on the wider drivers and motivations. Could one really gain an accurate understanding of Britain's strategic objectives in Afghanistan by interviewing a private on patrol in Kandahar?

So, having failed to deliver any real political interest, My Kidnapper goes on to disappoint on the level of human interest. Antonio's real identity is so camouflaged, that all Henderson gets out of what is supposed to be the emotional crux of the movie is a rather stilted and controlled apology for suffering caused.

The two Israelis who go back to the scene of the crime with Mark and Reini (but crucially are not permitted to meet up with now retired guerrilla Antonio and his partner) are superficially the least likeable of the returning victims, but there's an admirable side to their aggressive paranoia under these circumstances — and it's undoubtedly truthful, as anyone that has rubbed up against examples of the multitude of Israelis backpacking around Central America could testify to. Better their dogged hostility to their oppressors, than all that wittering about lost freedoms which often sound more like lost privileges.



Begonia said...

I never could figure out why I could not find compassion or concern for the kidnap victims in Noticias de un Secuestro. As I read it, I couldn't help but feel that many of those kidnapped victims could have had it much, much worse. If the masterful Garcia-Marquez can't make a Columbian kidnapping story gripping, then I think it's pretty much a lost cause.

That said, I admire the intention of trying to document the story of the kidnapper, to analyze his motivations and try to get at the root at why these kidnappings occur in Colombia, but not in other major conflicts.

sara said...

i have watch this movie and i'm very like it
guys, you must watch this movie

GC said...

It's years since I read Noticia de Un Secuestro and I can't recall my levels of sympathy for the victims, but I do remember thinking what a great journalist Gabo must have been! There's certainly a sense of entitlement pervading Colombia's educated classes, whatever their political leanings - it comes out clearly on the news channel NTN24.