Manda Bala: The Most Scenic Kidnapping Locale on Earth

Young gun director Jason Kohn taps into the evil-genius ecosystem of supply and demand run amok in Manda Bala, his documentary detailing how São Paulo's epidemic of violent kidnappings has spawned, not a social revolution, but a service industry to support its once and future victims. This is the Brazil they don't talk about in the American glossies. Using an approach he openly cribbed from his mentor, Errol Morris, Kohn spends the first half of the movie jumping between seemingly disparate set pieces and story lines that are meant to methodically cohere into an epiphany-driven conclusion. It's not an easy technique to master. We meet Patricia, who details her experience of being kidnapped and held for ransom, her ears cut off and sent to her family. After her release, Patricia visited Dr. Avelar, a plastic surgeon with monogrammed instruments who pioneered a reconstructive surgery targeting the growing market of earless kidnapping victims. Patricia's tale is just one in Kohn's arsenal of perspectives: an American businessman obsessed with his personal safety, a frog farmer, a cop on the kidnapping beat, a remorseless kidnapper, and Brazilian senator and national bête noire Jader Barbalho are all on hand to tell their side of what is ostensibly the same story of astronomical socioeconomic growth gone awry.

 
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