By Indiewire | Indiewire October 8, 2003 at 2:00AM
Colombian "Hostage" Doc Lands Timely TV Exposure Ahead of DVD Release
by Eugene Hernandez
A new documentary from three filmmakers, one Colombian and two Americans, will have a rare national showcase tonight (Wednesday) when a segment of the film is screened in primetime on "60 Minutes II," followed by its premiere tomorrow night on the History Channel. A piece of the dramatic doc that explores the fate of three U.S. hostages in Latin America will also be shown for the first time tonight on "CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather. The unusual exposure is aiding this week's DVD/VHS release of the movie.
"Held Hostage in Colombia," a new film by Jorge Enrique Botero, Karin Hayes, and Victoria Bruce, is a gripping look at three Americans currently held hostage in a remote Colombia jungle. The hostages' captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), recently allowed the taping of the three hostages, who describe in detail the plane crash that landed them in captivity. In an emotional segment, the hostages also talk directly to their loved ones back home. Botero, Hayes, and Bruce's film shows the hostage tape for the first time and also includes interviews with the captives' families. This weekend, indieWIRE screened the filmmakers' directors' cut, which they will start selling immediately after the CBS broadcast.
Filmmaker Botero, a Colombian journalist, interviewed the three hostages -- Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalvez, and Keith Stansell -- nearly two and a half months ago in their jungle prison camp. He then partnered with Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce, the producers and directors of the upcoming HBO/Cinemax doc, "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," which looks at the 2002 kidnapping of a Colombian presidential candidate by the FARC.
Diana Holtzberg is the executive producer of the movie, with Films Transit handling international sales. Arrow Entertainment is handling video and DVD distribution.
In February of this year the hostage trio, all American defense contractors, were flying in a Pentagon-owned Cessna conducting surveillance of cocaine fields in Colombia. The plane crashed in the jungle and in the middle of a FARC compound. Rebels killed the U.S pilot of the plane and a Colombian Army sergeant who was on board. Three people later died trying to rescue the hostages who are being held in a remote area of the country. In the tape, the three hostages plead with the U.S. government to negotiate a settlement for their release. They fear, however, that any rescue attempt will lead to their being killed.
"I don't want to die," says hostage Keith Stansell during the dramatic footage. "I don't want anybody dying to get me out of here."
Executive producer Holtzberg worked closely with the filmmakers to develop a strategy for releasing this film which builds on its timeliness and exploits the fact that the film features the first footage every scene of these three hostages.
"The lives of these men hang in the balance," explained Holtzberg in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "We wanted to get this out immediately, we could not wait for a film festival, this is something that needs to get out right now."
For project, which includes the two-hour interview with the hostages and also footage of FARC commander Jorge Briceno, Bruce and Hayes worked with "60 Minutes II" and The History Channel to produce the two programs. Yet they are preserving their own cut for the home-video release that they have timed to the TV debut this week.
"I want to continue to get this kind of work out and expand it," Holtzberg told indieWIRE. "It is a good sign to see that documentary filmmakers were the ones that were able to get this kind of a story and then bring it CBS -- there are so many important stories that the general public doesn't here about."
"Hopefully we will be able to affect a change in our policy (for) how we handle victims of kidnapping in this country and (create) a dialogue, looking more carefully at the war on drugs and how its being handled," said Holtzberg. "We are spending a fortune on it and its not really working."
[ For more information, please visit: http://www.heldhostageincolombia.com. ]