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Escobar biopic a controversial hit in Colombia

posted 9 Jul 2012, 13:43 by Mpelembe   [ updated 9 Jul 2012, 13:44 ]

A sweeping television series on the life of drug lord Pablo Escobar receives high ratings and many rave reviews, but also draws criticism from those concerned that the production is "humanizing" him.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA  (CARACOL TV) - On December 2, 1993 a bullet through the head ended the life of Pablo Escobar, as he raced across Medellin rooftops, pursued by police. Two days later, thousands turned out to mourn Colombia's most notorious drug trafficker, who had left behind a paradoxical legacy of gruesome murders and charitable works for Colombia to ponder. Now, nearly twenty years on, the

children of two of his victims have brought Escobar back to life in a television series sweeping Colombia and set to air in the United States on Monday (July 9).
"Pablo Escobar: Boss of Evil" was co-produced by Camilo Cano and Juana Uribe, a vice president at Caracol TV, which is running the biopic. They say the series is aimed at portraying the drug lord from all sides and bringing attention to the heroes who fought him.

Both producers have a direct and emotional connection to Escobar. Cano's father was Guillermo Cano, a crusading newspaper editor who was gunned down by hitmen from Escobar's Medellin Cartel in 1986. 

Uribe's mother, Maruja Pachon, was kidnapped by Escobar's men and held for seven months.

Cano said production was a painful, but necessary process.

"What we are doing is reviving characters. We are reviving all of our pain, but we are doing it in order to tell the story of the lives of all of these people because many defences were made on the part of the drug traffickers and we had not told much about other characters. So, in the particular case of my father, I have to bring him back to life to kill him. That is, the script and the scenes are dramatic. It is very hard to revive this issue," he said.

Born in northwestern Colombia in 1949, Escobar came onto the international scene in 1981 when he formed the Medellin Cartel with other powerful Colombian traffickers. As his operation gained notoriety, Escobar was linked to thousands of murders and kidnappings, suspected in the death of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, and believed to be behind the bombing of a Colombian airliner and government building in 1989.

In 1982, he flirted with a brief career in Colombia's Congress and began to cut a Robin Hood-like figure in Medellin, giving out money in slums and building houses for the poor.

Uribe said that the Escobar series is not just another "narco-novela", a genre which has become popular in Colombia in recent years.

"Well, we have seen a lot of series about drug trafficking, but we had not seen a series that used the name of Escobar and the history, the chain of events that we lived through and all that this era signified in its totality. It was 20 years of battle against the state and the state finally, only at the end, decided to take the reins of this fight - fight him, pursue him and take him down. But it was a long fight and a difficult fight and we believe and we hope that the country understands that there can never again be a person like Escobar and the country can never again take this kind of illegality as it did in that era," she explained.

The Escobar series started airing at the end of May and is the most costly production in Colombian television history. It has garnered high ratings in its prime-time spot and has received critical acclaim for acting, scriptwriting and its production.

In Envigado, Escobar's hometown, residents are divided on the series. Luis Rendon sees it as a way to learn more about his life.

"I think it's very good. I think that this is a series that all the Colombians were waiting for to tell us about everything that really happened in the life of Pablo Escobar Gaviria. Everyone said good things about him and others said bad things, but now we are seeing the story as it truly was and that is very good," he said.

However, resident Claudia Aguilar doesn't want to relive the Escobar story.

"It seems to me that it is very real. The character is very similar, almost all the characters. That was what we lived through. Truthfully, I don't like the programme because I lived through it and I don't want my children to see it," she said.

Others have criticised the production for humanizing Escobar too much and not focusing enough on those who fought against him.

"Pablo Escobar: Boss of Evil" will premiere on Monday (July 9) in the U.S. on the Telemundo channel.