The Siege

In 1996 Nestor Cerpa and his Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took over 400 people hostage at the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Lima. Over the next four months a chilling, unlikely, sometimes humorous and tragic drama unfolded. With unprecedented access to archival footage, secret police recordings from inside the embassy, intimate letters, and interviews with the main protagonists the directors have crafted a gripping and thought-provoking portrayal of an ultimately all too human story.

Nestor Cerpa is a devoted family man who loves his wife and children dearly, writing them passionate and revealing letters from the Residence. He is also one of the most reviled figures in Peruvian political history. Inflicting pain and suffering on hundreds, Nestor fails to perceive the contradictions of using violence and cruelty as tools of social justice.

The taking of the Residence is a direct attack on the Japanese born Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, who has claimed victory in his brutal campaign against Peru's insurgent groups. The MRTA has been all but wiped out. Hundreds of members, including Nestor's wife Nancy, languish in prison. Taking the Residence is Nestor's last-ditch effort to free them. For Fujimori it is a painful embarrassment. His response is uncompromising and fatal. What follows is devastating and bizarre.

It is also a hundred and twenty six days in the lives of the hostages. The psychology of captivity is intimately revealed through a compelling portrait of daily life in the Residence. Not only affecting it is also unexpected: the head of counter-terrorism gives Nestor French lessons and the Japanese Ambassador leads communal exercise classes. When it is revealed that Nestor would give up all other demands for the release of his wife the crisis takes a romantic dimension.

Multi-layered and complex this film avoids simple and obvious conclusions, and investigates the collision points between social forces and our personal lives.

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