Bogotá, November 6, 1985. 35 heavily armed members of the M-19 guerrilla movement storm the Palace of Justice, home to Colombia’s Supreme Court, and symbol of its judicial system. Hundreds of people are taken hostage, including almost all of Colombia’s Supreme Court judges. The guerrillas have a clear demand – they want the President put on trial.
Not surprisingly the government refuses to negotiate, and for the next 27 hours the country is transfixed, as the military opens fire on the building, and Bogotá’s central plaza is transformed into a brutal and bloody battleground. When the dust settles, the majestic Palace is a smoldering shell, and close to a hundred people are dead, including many employees of the courts, 34 of the 35 M-19 guerrillas, and almost all of the country's Supreme Court judges.
Twelve others are unaccounted for—their bodies cannot be found in the debris. Many believe they have been “disappeared”—removed from the building by government forces, accused of aiding the M-19, tortured, and then killed. 25 years later, Colonel Plazas Vega, one of the leaders of the military operation, has been charged with the disappearances. The Colonel protests his innocence, outraged that so many years after the event he is being made a scapegoat.
THE SIEGE follows the story of the day of the Siege of the Palace of Justice, and tracks the courtroom drama of Colonel Plazas Vega’s trial 25 years later. In the course of the highly charged trial the lawyers, prosecutors, and the judge all wear bulletproof vests, and start traveling with armed guards, in fear for their lives. The case has captured the attention of the Colombian public, and both practically and symbolically it has become a touchstone for the integrity of justice in Colombia.
2011 Human Rights Watch Film Festival (New York)
2011 Cartegena Film Festival (Colombia)