This film was one from the Cornerhouse Spanish & Latin American Film Festival which I was actually highly anticipating. A documentary film telling for the first time, through the eyes of his son Sebastian, the notorious story of Pablo Escobar: leader of the Columbian Medellin drug cartel. The story itself was enough to confirm that the film had a lot of potential.
In fact, we left the film feeling disappointed. Using a mix of archive news footage, home movies and Sebastian’s own narration, the film was meant to be a humble and personal portrayal of Columbia’s political history. Instead, the Cornerhouse must have been having some kind of technical issue throughout the film as there was no music and the archived documentary clips had no sound. As a result, the film went in and out of sound frequently, and the story often had to be endured through subtitles alone. Many people, at one point an entire row, left feeling frustrated. The rest of us sat and persisted with the rest of the documentary. At times when the film was at its most serious, all we could do was all laugh at the fact that we couldn’t hear important historical footage and, as a result, the film didn’t flow. If it was not for the subtitles underneath, I reckon that the cinema would have emptied pretty quickly. At the end of the film, all the audience felt that they could do was applaud.
All of this shambles aside, the film carried an important political message for Columbia. In order for the violent history and drug cartels in Columbia to end, Sebastian and his mother broke over a decade of silence in exile. One of the most touching moments involved Sebastian meeting the sons of murdered political figures Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galán in order to apologise for his father’s grave mistakes.
Whether in the embrace of Sebastian and Rodrigo (Lara Bonilla’s son), or in the sympathies and disappointment of Sebastian himself for the person his father had become, this landmark film is definitely one to see, even if only with occasional sound. Although for the sake of all of you reading this, I really hope this is not the case.