Almost 20 years after his death, Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, is still infamous. Back in the '80s Escobar acquired massive amounts of wealth, controlled 80 percent of the world's cocaine supply, ordered the murders of hundreds of people, and at one point was even elected to Colombia's Congress. Escobar's criminal exploits have been depicted in countless sensationalized TV shows, movies, telenovelas, and documentaries. Nicolas Entel, an Argentinian-born, New York-based documentarian, decided to forge ahead with making a film about Pablo Escobar despite the glut in Escobar-themed documentaries.
"Although many documentaries have been made about Pablo Escobar, before making this one, I really felt that there was a void for good Pablo Escobar documentaries. Although there is a lot of them most of them are embarrassing for lack of a better word. Some of them suggest this ridiculous idea that he was killed by a delta force sniper, some of them glamourize him, and even dare to ask if he was good or bad which is a ridiculous question."
Entel wanted to find a way to create a different kind of Pablo Escobar documentary. He challenged himself to find a way to tell the story in the present.
"I am always very interested in documentaries in which the story unfolds in front of your eyes, that take place in present time. One of the first things I asked myself is how can I not only retell the story of Pablo Escobar, which of course takes place in the past but also have a documentary that which at least certain things happen in present time and unfold in front of the cameras?"
It turns out Pablo Escobar had a son who fled Colombia soon after his father's death in the early '90s. He was quietly living in Argentina under an assumed name making his living as an architect. Entel, without ever having met Escobar's son, decided he wanted to make a documentary about him.
"So the first idea I had was telling the story from the point of view of Sebastian Marroquin, who of course was born Juan Pablo Escobar but changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin after his father's death for security reasons. I did not know him but I thought it was going to give me the opportunity of not only achieving this that I already mentioned [having the documentary take place in the present] but also of giving my documentary a more contemporary tone."
But first he had to get Sebastian Marroquin to agree.
"It was very hard to get Sebastian to agree. It took me more than six months to get him on-board. Basically, he felt that he was risking his life by finally breaking his silence and letting the world know where he was and that his name was Sebastian Marroquin. But, I think he understood that I wasn't just trying to glamourize his father's image but I was trying to do something different, tellings things from the point of view of his generation. I think that's what helped him to take this chance."
Marroquin had not spoken to the press in years but after some coaxing from Entel, he opened up his family's personal archive of photographs, videos, and voice recordings.
Once the cameras started rolling, Pablo Escobar's only son began to tell the story of his extraordinary childhood. It was a life of luxury and extravagance. In Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre), Marroquin recounts how his dad would spend millions of dollars on exotic animals by picking them out of an encyclopedia and how he would always win at Monopoly by stuffing bills in the couch hours before they even started playing the game. Pablo Escobar was a doting father and a devoted family man even while he was ordering assassinations and running one of the world's largest crime rings.
What becomes clear in this emotional and intimate documentary is that Marroquin carries the weight of his father's crimes on his shoulders and seeks to break the cycle of violence in Colombia. Not only does he not want to repeat his father's mistakes but wants to atone for them in any way he can. He takes great care to pen a letter of apology to the sons of two of his father's most prominent victims, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan. These men dared to get in Pablo Escobar's way and he ordered the assassination of both. What follows after Marroquin's letter is a chain of events that provide hope and closure to a country still marred by violence.
Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre) is now available on DVD and streaming on Netflix.
Photos courtesy of Nicolas EntelThis interview originally appeared on LatinoBuzz a weekly feature on Indiewire that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.