With an economics degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a masters degree from the Business School Lausanne in Switzerland, Jorge Atalla moved to New York to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy where he received an advanced film technique degree. In 2000, Atalla returned to Brazil and began shooting his first feature documentary, In Cane for Life (A Vida em Cana) which portrays the hardships of working in the sugar cane fields. To capture the essence and human nature of the workers, the director practically lived with hundreds of workers over a six month period. The film was screened at 56 film festivals in 11 countries and won 14 awards 9 for best documentary including a Satellite Award from the International Press Academy. It took two years to convince others to join the Sequestro project because kidnapping in the city was at its peak. Shooting finally began in late 2005.
Making The Film
I thought about producing "Sequestro" in 2001 when I moved back to Brazil after several years of living abroad. Life in São Paulo had changed since I left in 1987 - the crime rate had exploded. Kidnapping, a crime I had never heard about before I left the country at the age of 18, had become a real and dangerous part of everyday life in São Paulo. With over 500 kidnappings taking place that year alone, it is estimated that 1,500 cases were not reported to the police. I had to document what was going on in my city and show the world. I spent the next three years convincing people, especially producers, about the importance of making the film. Many declined, thinking it was too dangerous and impossible to make -- specifically obtaining all the licenses needed to shoot the film. I spent 2004 with the Anti Kidnapping Division, convincing them of the importance and seriousness of the film. After three years of convincing my family, producers and the police the film could be made -- I was able to get the funding and begin shooting in 2005.