Review by Sean Boelman
Sequestrada, written and directed by Sabrina McCormick and Soopum Sohn, is a new thriller with an environmental message. Although the multiple storylines do start to get a bit overly jumbled at times, the film’s interesting use of characterization and the excellent cast make this a compelling and important watch.
The movie follows three storylines happening against the backdrop of the building of the Belo Monte dam: an indigenous girl is separated from her family, a government official is overseeing a report on the construction of the dam, and an American investor attempts to sway the opinion of the people and the government. Individually, all of these storylines are very interesting, but it is when they begin to tie together that the film is at its best.
In the first twenty or thirty minutes, the movie struggles to get its footing as McCormick and Sohn work to introduce all of the different characters and themes. In a film with so many moving parts, it is difficult to do this without leaning too heavily on exposition, yet they manage to pull it off for the most part. A few moments in this opening feel a bit too on-the-nose, but once the movie gets going, it begins to feel much more natural.
In terms of themes, the film is dealing with quite a bit, and as such, it is understandable that some of the aspects feel underdeveloped compared to others. Ultimately, even though the dam is the central focus of the movie, the relationship between the indigenous community and the government ends up being the strongest idea explored in the film. The commentary that McCormick and Sohn have on this issue feels extremely timely and relevant.
Another thing that is very impressive about this movie is that it defies archetypes on a regular basis. When the American character is introduced, one expects him to become the “white savior”, but McCormick and Sohn do the exact opposite. Rather than depicting the indigenous people as the helpless ones, the film empowers them, with the bureaucrats being the ones who are incompetent.
The cast all do a very good job in their roles. The two adult leads of the movie, Marcelo Olinto and Tim Blake Nelson, are both excellent at driving their individual storylines. However, the true standout is child actress Kamodjara Xipaia, who is undeniably the best part of the film. Her performance is filled with subtlety and nuance and is truly impressive in many ways.
On a technical level, McCormick and Sohn admittedly don’t put the level of polish on the movie that would have been necessary for it to be as appealing as it could have been, but the rough-around-the-edges feel of the film ultimately helps give it a sense of authenticity. Viewers will feel like they are in the moment, feeling the same rush as the characters.
Sequestrada does have some weaknesses, but it is still mostly effective at delivering its messages due to the commitment of all involved. This movie isn’t getting the attention it deserves despite having a respected actor and timely content.
Sequestrada is now available on VOD.