for the first time since their abduction, the three American
hostages, flanked by guerrilla soldiers with semi-automatic
weapons and looking physically strong after nearly six months
in captivity, are seen in a new documentary titled, Held
Hostage in Colombia. The film is produced and directed
by American filmmakers Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce, along
with Colombian journalist Jorge Enrique Botero, who obtained
exclusive footage of the three men in a jungle prison camp
on July 25, 2003.
In interviews with Botero, the three captives, dressed in
the identical camouflage uniforms of their captors, explain
that they were working in Colombia under a U.S. government
contract awarded to California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary
of Northrop Grumman, when the engine of the Cessna 208 they
were flying failed. After surviving the crash, systems analysts
Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, Colombian guide Luis Alcides
Cruz, and pilots Thomas Janis and Thomas Howes were immediately
surrounded by forces from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), Colombia's largest insurgent group. Cruz
and Janis were shot and killed, and the three others taken
FARC commanders explain on camera that the three Americans
have been classified as prisoners of war, and that they are
on a list with Colombian political prisoners held by the FARC.
The three hostages explain what daily life for them has been
like, the incredible pain of separation from their families
and the frustration at having no news from the outside world.
And in a dramatic scene, the hostages read news magazines
and reports and discover that soon after their crash, their
contract was awarded to another company that they have never
heard of, called CIAO. This information adds to the FARC's
suspicion and accusation that the men are CIA agents.
an emotional moment, the men learn that three of their co-workers
died in a plane crash while looking for them. And in a powerful
plea, hostage Keith Stansell begs the American government
not to attempt a military rescue. "You may come here
to get us, but when you get here, we're going to be dead,"
Stansell says, explaining that they are guarded 24 hours a
day by armed guerrillas. "I pray for a diplomatic solution",
Stansell says staring directly into the camera, referring
to the guerilla demand for a prisoner exchange.
Before his trip to the jungle, Botero asked American filmmakers
Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce to record a message from Jo
Rosano of Connecticut to her son Marc Gonsalves. After showing
Gonsalves the heartbreaking message from his mother, Botero
had the three captives send messages to their families. Hayes
and Bruce then took the messages to family members in the
United States who hadn't received any news or proof of life
since the day of the crash, and who had been pressured by
the U.S. Department of State not to speak to the media about
the case. The families discuss their incredible frustration
after hearing no news for six months, and their anger at the
US government for making no attempts to encourage the Colombian
government to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. With
expert testimony from academics and politicians, HELD
HOSTAGE IN COLOMBIA also calls into question the
long-running American drug policy in Colombia.
Jorge Enrique Botero has worked as a journalist covering
Colombia, with a particular emphasis on its civil war, for
over 25 years. He recently received an award from the Fundación
Nuevo Periodismo Iberomericano (Foundation for New Latin American
Journalism) headed by Gabriel García Márquez,
for Como Voy A Olvidarte? (How am I going
to forget you?), a documentary film that follows the lives
of Colombian military officers and soldiers who had been held
by the FARC for more than 4 years. As one of the few journalists
ever to enter FARC prison camps, his work has been a catalyst
to bring about dialogues that resulted in the freeing of prisoners.
He is based in Bogotá, Colombia.
Victoria Bruce is a journalist/filmmaker and author
of No Apparent Danger; The true story of a volcanic
disaster at Galeras and Nevado del Ruiz (HarperCollins
2001), and the producer/director with Karin Hayes of the HBO/Cinemax
film, The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt,
the story of a Colombian presidential candidate kidnapped
by the FARC in February 2002. She is based in Annapolis, Maryland.