Karin Hayes
Victoria Bruce
Jorge Enrique Botero

On February 12, 2003 a Pentagon-owned Cessna went down in the jungle of southern Colombia. Found near the crash site were the bullet-ridden bodies of a Colombian crewmember and the American pilot. Three other Americans who were aboard the plane were nowhere to be found.

Seen 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 hostage.

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.

In 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.

Director 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.

Producer 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.

Producer Karin Hayes is a filmmaker who produced and directed, with Victoria Bruce, the HBO/Cinemax documentary film The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt. She has also worked on programs for TLC, National Geographic Channel, The Travel Channel, and PBS. She is based in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information, please email info@heldhostageincolombia.com