"Every time he went away on a trip, on a mission, he'd leave me a letter," Nestor Cerpa Jr. explains, "Because there was always a risk something would happen to him." The letter Cerpa reads at the beginning of The Siege is the last one his father wrote, before he led a group of guerrillas from the MRTA (the Tupac Army Revolutionary Movement) against President Alberto Fujimoro's government in Peru. As Bentley Dean and Elise West's documentary shows, in 1996, this mission didn’t go as Cerpa might have hoped. As survivors remember what happened during the 126 days that the group held the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima, the film cuts repeatedly to footage taken at the time. The press had remarkable access, as administration officials, police and military officers, released hostages, and the hostage takers made use of television cameras to make their cases. In so doing, the participants expanded the inadvertent blueprints for making spectacles out of such confrontations, established by hijackers during the 1960s, recalibrated during the 1972 Munich Olympics, and revisited by the events of 9/11. The documentary -- airing now on ITVS' Global Voices and available as well on Snag Films -- smartly reveals the thrilling, horrific, and also absurd aspects of such performances, then and now.
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