Sequestrada, written and directed by Sabrina McCormick and Soopum Sohn, has an immidiencey to it. Tackling global warming, the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, and the displacement of indigenous people in Brazil, the drama comes close to being a documentary, largely shot in a documentary style. The film centers around a young indigenous woman, “Kamodjara” (Kamodjara Xipaia), whose tribe is fighting against the Belo Monte dam project–a construction that would destroy their homeland. (CPG 4/5)
Review by Carlotta Plys-Garzotto
While Sequestrada deals with incredibly real issues, it is still rather fantastical and dramatic at times (which is the only thing that keeps the viewer from believing it is truly a documentary). McCormick and Sohn show the perspectives of the indigenous people, an American investor, and a Brazilian politician of sorts–three drastically different POVs. The American investor, “Thomas” (Tim Blake Nelson), happens to look almost identical to the Brazillian politician “Roberto” (Marcelo Olinto). This leads to some dramatic and some comical mistaken identity throughout the film. With the rest of the film being incredibly educational and quite serious, this unrealistic element is a nice touch. The young, just thirteen-year-old, Kamodjara is the heart of the film. Through her narration, paired with beautiful nature shots, the viewer is able to connect to the film on a deeper level. The gorgeous nature shown throughout the film highlights further how terrible the destruction of our planet is. Sequestrada shows how certain ideals of lifestyle that are considered “better” or “nicer” are being forced onto the idigenous people. It is very powerful when Kamodjara is shown homes in construction and is told, “see, you could have a bedroom and a bathroom”, and she says she would rather live on her reservation by river. Her preference to swim in the river over a pool, and her understanding of wildlife are more examples of a natural beauty she holds that people are trying to take away from her. If you’re not fluent in Portuguese, you will be reading a lot of subtitles. Don’t let that deter you, though, it only affects the film in a positive way–adding more realism and flow. The only drawback is that in certain moments the colors and movement of the camera made it slightly difficult to read the text. This was easily worked around, though, and did not disrupt the film as a whole.
I love how McCormick and Sohn incorporate real politics and facts into their film, and use the camera as a way to make the viewer feel like they are looking in on a real situation. It brings the film to a grounded place and reminds the viewer that it is all a sad reality. At the end, the film directs you to a website to go to if you wish to look more into the subjects addressed or donate to the cause. This is a great way to say, “this is not the end, this needs to be the beginning”.
© Carlotta Plys-Garzotto FF2 Media (11/20/2019)
Does Sequestrada pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
It technically does not. However, there is a lot of female strength and inspiration in the film.
Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
One of my favorite parts of Sequestrada happens when a colonial white man is captured and beaten for days on end by a group of indigenous people. Throughout the movie we have seen how this man has very few scruples when it comes to getting what he wants. As an investor, he has a stake in seeing that the dam is constructed, and he comes to Brazil in the beginning of the movie ready to treat the whole country like it is already his. While Thomas did not commit the crime he is being punished for, but rather Roberto, his doppelganger, there is a kind of poetic justice. After all, Thomas is being punished for stealing the daughter of one of the indigenous men, when he certainly is stealing everything he can get his hands on in Brazil.
As Carly said, the ending was also a brilliant choice. In most films like this, one would expect the dam to be thwarted somehow by the good guys and for the indigenous tribe to get their land back. This unfortunately does not happen in Sequestrada, because it does not happen in real life. The dam in question was actually built in Brazil, and had the effects of displacement that were shown in the film. Thomas the investor ends up repenting and trying to convince his boss to oppose the dam, but she basically laughs in his face–there are too many people investing in the dam for it to be allowed to fail. This realism is one more way that this film feels like a documentary despite being a work of fiction. This also inspires the audience to get involved in the issue, since it makes them realize that the story of this dam is still unfolding.