Porno blackmail in harrowing based-on-fact ‘Daniel & Ana’

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Yesterday’s news included a terrible story out of Rutgers University in which a student committed suicide after other students hid a web cam in his room that caught him having sex.

The invasion of privacy in this sort of case is tantamount to rape.

In a weird coincidence, just before I heard about the New Jersey case I watched a deeply disturbing 2009 Mexican film, “Daniel & Ana,” based on a number of crimes in Central and South America in which young people were kidnapped and forced to have sex on camera.

The sexual crimes are just a subset of the wave of kidnappings that have plagued Mexico in recent years.

In the case of the sex crimes, the results of the video recordings went out on the international underground porn market, leaving the victims wondering when their sexual assaults would become available as “entertainment” to consumers all over the world.

The pornographers use kidnapping to fill orders for all sorts of taboo sex including incest.

“Daniel & Ana” follows a pair of well-adjusted, affluent siblings — the 16-year-old Daniel (Dario Yazbek Bernal, the younger brother of Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal) and his 20something sister Ana (Marimar Vega) — who are kidnapped, threatened with death, and then forced to have sex on camera.

Ana is in the midst of preparations for her wedding and Daniel is finishing high school and looking forward to the ceremony. Ana and Daniel are best friends as well as siblings.

Writer-director Michel Franco shows admirable restraint in his handling of such volatile material.

Indeed, the low-key, observational style of “Daniel & Ana” might put off some viewers who think the story deserves a more emotional — even melodramtic — approach in keeping with the horror of the crime perpetrated against Daniel and Ana.

Franco’s decision to keep a lid on the material makes the final third of the film even more distressing and heartbreaking as Daniel and Ana suffer in silence — too ashamed to tell anyone but an anonymous therapist what happened to them — fearing that the video could appear on the internet at any time.

The bottling up of the crime sends both victims into depression — with Daniel feeling particularly confused and distraught (we see him cutting school day after day, and sitting in a multiplex staring at films without registering what’s on the screen).

A few days ago, I wrote about the much-hyped horror film “The Human Centipede” which is like a Disney movie compared with the real life horror on view in “Daniel & Ana.”

Michel Franco’s film was an official selection at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it received very limited theatrical distribution in this country. “Daniel & Ana” will be available on DVD from Strand Releasing on Oct. 12.

Joe Meyers

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