August 12, 2005

Secuestro Express

By Luis Alonso Pérez

As the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider, everyday life in the overcrowded third world city streets has rapidly turned into a battleground, where violence and crime rule the streets and express kidnappings have become a very successful business for those who have been living in poverty, but at the same time, they have become a way to get back at a the few rich ones who see the hunger and misery but decide to ignore it.

Every sixty minutes someone in Latin America is abducted. Seventy percent of these kidnapping victims don’t survive.

A frightening situation, realistically portrayed in Secuestro Express, a fast-paced urban suspense thriller that recounts the story of the kidnapping of Carla (Mia Maestro) and Martin (Jean Paul Leroux), a young and wealthy couple from Caracas who get snatched in a matter of seconds by three ghetto thugs after a night of partying.

“Secuestro Express” director Jonathan Jakubowicz

Secuestro Express is the directing debut for Jonathan Jakubowicz, a young Venezuelan filmmaker fed up with the social inequities in his country. The film was shot in 2002 in the dangerous streets of Caracas, a booming city, where over 80 percent of the population lives in miserable conditions, while a few privileged ones live in gated communities and cruise around in flashy bulletproof SUV’s with bodyguards, a very intense setting that got even worst, when they began shooting in the midst of one of the countries hardest political and social crisis in their history, which brought more tension to an already afraid and confused crew.

Keeping the story real was one of the most important things for Jakubowicz, so when it came time for casting, Mia Maestro was an easy choice, since she was born into a prosperous family from Buenos Aires, Argentina, who lived under the constant threat of such kidnappings.

But reality was portrayed in its full extent by the three kidnappers: (Trece) Carlos Julio Molina, one of the most renowned hip hop DJ’s and producers in Latin America, and by two of the best known rappers in Venezuela: Pedro Pérez (Budu) and Carlos Madera (Niga) from the rap duo “Vagos y Maleantes” a group brought up in Cotiza, one of the toughest ghettos in Caracas.

The roll of Sergio –Carla’s wealthy father– is played by the Panamanian Musician and social activist Ruben Blades, who was thrilled to join the project because “It speaks from the heart and soul of the streets where I was born, where violence is your daily bread, and the people in power are deaf” said Blades. “I believe in youth, and this film is the youth of South America talking to the world”.

Giving a voice to the victims on both sides of the problem was one of the main goals for Jonathan Jakubowicz. He thinks that it’s urgent for people from all social classes to begin a massive public dialogue “Where people from the upper classes admit that many mistakes have been committed, and the people from the lower classes begin explaining to them what their main needs are”.

In this complex social scenario it’s hard to tell the good from the bad, so for the young writer/director it was very important to keep away from a particular posture, to prevent that from happening he talked to people involved in this type of crimes. “When I met with the kidnappers I discovered that they where human beings too, and that there where real and comprehensive reasons why they did these things. They seemed to be fairly normal people who had been forced into truly extreme situations. When you grow up in a ghetto, it doesn’t always matter if you are a good person or not – you simply do what you have to do to survive”.

Jakubowicz feels that movie directors have a very important social responsibility, yet doesn’t consider himself a social filmmaker; he only wants to make intelligent movies. “I believe that this is a social problem that has to be solved by ourselves by communicating. That’s why I think that the two positive characters in the movie are the ones that communicate, and I believe that is the secret for our societies.”

Secuestro Express opens Friday August 12. For more information and to watch the movie trailer go to the web page

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