The Colombians have one up on Tony Soprano, a soap based on real-life drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
“Pablo Escobar: Boss of Evil” is mesmerizing television viewers in this country of 46 million. But it is sparking a debate over whether the series does too much to humanize Escobar, who won legions of admirers by building homes for the poor but also blew up an airliner and coolly ordered the killings of thousands.
“It’s a false and paltry version that will end up converting the worst criminal into an idol,” said Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, whose father, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, was assassinated on Escobar’s orders in 1984.
The creators of the biopic, though, come from families victimized by Escobar.
Juana Uribe, a producer of the series, is the daughter of Maruja Pachon, who was kidnapped for seven months by Escobar’s henchmen, a saga memorialized in Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “News of a Kidnapping.” Uribe is also a vice president at Caracol, the network behind the series.
Her co-producer is Camilo Cano, whose father, Guillermo Cano, was the crusading editor of the newspaper El Espectador who was killed by the Medellin cartel’s hit men in 1986.
The producers say that 19 years after Escobar was gunned down on a rooftop in Medellin, it is the right time to tell his story in a fictionalized but largely true-to-life account.
“This is a way of doing a little bit of catharsis because this is what we went through, and there is no Colombian who doesn’t understand that,” Uribe said. “I had the possibility to analyze and had an open door to tell the story. I felt like we had a responsibility to do this.”
Apparently, they have set out to show “all sides” of the psychopath.
The trailer for the show asks the question, “What do you believe?” over and over, as in (my translation. Please link to this post if you use it),
“They say Pablo Escobar paid his henchmen a million pesos for every policeman they killed. What do you believe?
“They say Pablo Escobar spent 150 million pesos in rubber bands to organize his bundles of dollars. What do you believe?
“They say Pablo Escobar spent over 5 billion pesos in fuel to transport his mistress in his private jet. What do you believe?
“They say Pablo Escobar built a system of tunnels though the city sewers to escape from the police. What do you believe?
Pablo Escobar: Boss of Evil.”
I’ll tell you what I know: Unless they show a corpse for every minute of Escobar, the series will glorify the image of drug lords the way the old Miami Vice series did in the 1970s.