Posted by: greercn | February 2, 2011

Interview with Mark Henderson – Review of “My Kidnapper”

“My Kidnapper” is not for the squeamish filmgoer. There are raw emotions and harrowing scenes in this tale of eight young tourists being held hostage in Colombia, where 3000 people are taken each year. The film transcends its detailing of the events by following up on all the key participants, six years later.

As a documentary film, “My Kidnapper” asks more questions than it answers. Stratford Picturehouse assisted in arranging an interview with Mark Henderson, who was held by ELN members in the Sierra Nevada area of Colombia for more than 100 days. See the end of this post for screening details.

The film keeps a focus on Mark’s return to Colombia, with a side trip to meet one of his former captors, Antonio.  Is this about redemption? Apology? Explanation?  The encounter comes after a bizarre six-year continuing email correspondence between Mark and Antonio.

You get a fascinating overview of each of the sides in this violent struggle. It’s a must see for anyone who wants insight into Colombia, captivity and the effects on the people.

The interview with Mark Henderson (MH) follows.

Question: What would you wish to be the lasting legacy of “My Kidnapper”?

MH: I had the idea of writing a book or making a film. I wanted to tell the story of what happened to us and to say something about what happens to people who are kidnapped, but I wanted to tell it from all sides. It’s an interesting story. I’d like people to think about the effects on everyone, from us to our kidnappers to those still fighting, those still missing and the people who are affected by all these events.

Question: Your partner expressed concern that you might be changed by going back to Colombia. What happened after you came home?

MH: What happened was the opposite of what my partner was worried about. I am calmer and I don’t think about the kidnapping any more.  To use the American phrase, I achieved closure. The editing phase and those four months of work was key to that.

Question: German hostage Reini Weigel seems especially distressed in some scenes. Was this return visit putting too much pressure on her?

MH:  The experience of visiting Colombia again has helped her, she says. She is strong-willed. She came to see the film in Sheffield and was positive about it.

Question: But Reini, of all the hostages, faces a fine of 16,000 Euros which needs to be paid to the German government.  Is she being given any practical help with that?

MH: We have set up a donation page on the film’s web site, because people have expressed the desire to help her pay that fine. From my perspective, the fine seems unfair.

Question: The court decided that she was more complicit with the kidnappers than the rest of you. She was moved to an easier camp and appears to have had better conditions than the rest of you, after she was moved.

MH: It’s German law. It’s a point of law and it’s a massive amount for her, especially as she isn’t working now. We are trying to raise some money and hope people will feel moved to help. Many people have said they want to help. I don’t agree that she was complicit. Reini is due to give birth any day and cannot afford to pay the fine.

Question: Why is the Spanish hostage not in the film at all? And only two of the Israelis, Ido and Erez, are in it.

MH: That’s due to practical considerations. I wanted to go back as did Reini and Ido and Erez.

Question: The film expressed the cultural differences in the reactions between different people who are the hostages. For example, the Israelis react very differently from you. Do you have any comment on that?

MH: I think Ido and Erez are very articulate in English and explain their own point of view.

Question: It seems to be very much your picture. What’s Kate Horne’s role in this?

MH: Whenever I am on screen, Kate’s behind the camera. Kate was very instrumental in resolving all the practicalities of returning to Colombia and did a lot of hard work to make the film happen. It’s Kate’s film as much as it is mine.

Question: Some might say that Colombia is a dangerous place and you shouldn’t have gone in the first place. What’s your response to that?

MH: I had been in Mexico, central America and Colombia for four months before the kidnapping. Going to Colombia started as a visit to a cousin in Colombia. There’s a lot that isn’t in the film, but the decision to go there was thought about.

Question: Did you travel before you went to Colombia? And have you been away since you were released?

MH: I did travel before. Within two months of my release, I went to see my brother in New Zealand. I needed to do some safe trekking and walking and find some headspace of my own. And I have been to India, Morocco – oh, loads of places, since.

Question: Would you go see Antonio again? He refers to it all as “the events” rather than the kidnapping by his group. And are you still emailing each other?

MH: I don’t know if I would go see him again. Yes, he still emails. He saw the film and he is very interested in how it is received by people. He wants to know how he is coming across.

Question: Do you think we can understand his actions, given the difference in backgrounds?

MH: I think we need to understand all the possibilities of forgiveness and atonement.

Question: Your parents were deeply distressed by the kidnapping. Are they anxious about you now?

MH: When I went back to Colombia, I felt we needed to understand all this. It was very different when I was first released in 2003. It’s a blur. I remember we held each other, spoke and they showed me all the letters and cards they had received. Some were from family members of hostages in different places who had been killed. They were really worried about me going back to Colombia but they understand why I went and now they see why I had to go back.

Question: I hate the gun on the logo for the film, which I think gives the wrong image for a story about atonement and forgiveness. The jerky titles with the upper and lower case sections appear to copy ransom notes, which I think is misleading to the viewer. How would you respond to that?

MH: I haven’t thought about that but there will be criticisms.

Question: I imagine you would not wish the kidnapping to be the key event of your life. What’s next?

MH: The aim of making this film was to tell the story. The fear is now gone. I was scared and I’m not now because I felt I was in control, this time. I want to find a project and make another film.   

Stratford Picturehouse will be showing “My Kidnapper”, followed by a question and answer session with Mark Henderson, on Tuesday, February 15th at 8.30PM. Other Picturehouses will also show the film. Go to www.picturehouses.co.uk for more information.

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