COCAINE PRISON begins in Bolivia’s notorious San Sebastian jail, a virtual citadel inside a crumbling colonial house, following the interlinked lives of Mario, a cocaine worker fighting for freedom, Hernan, a drug mule who dreams of being a drug-boss and his younger sister Daisy, who struggles to escape the lure to traffic cocaine. In a country where the cocaine trade isn’t ruled by violence, these small fish dispel the ‘gun-toting Narco’ myth and questions the legitimacy of the War on Drugs, that’s seen billions of dollars spent on repressive policies, targeting ‘disposable’ people in cocaine producing countries… Meanwhile banks worldwide launder billions of cocaine dollars every year.
COCAINE PRISON bridges the ever-widening gap between the North and the South, offering a new perspective to the War on Drugs as it is waged in the Andes.
Bolivia’s relationship with cocaine is not like the rest of Latin America where the ‘business’ is controlled by violence. For Bolivians, cocaine is just another commodity produced for export and traded in a consumer-driven global market.
Over the past forty years Bolivia’s economy has grown dependent on the global demand for cocaine. The War on Drugs has brought violence to Latin America, but it is also created opportunity, freeing thousands from poverty in Bolivia where the price for coca-leaf has only increased since this war began.
Today more than 50% of Bolivia’s prison population is in jail for minor drug offenses; a direct result of Law 1008, a US-backed drug statute that effectively redefined trafficking to mean, “to produce, possess, keep, store, transport, deliver, administer or give as a gift.” As a result 84% of Bolivia’s inmates wait years for a trial. In the US the War on Drugs has created the largest prison population in the world, and much like Bolivia, it is largely comprised of the country’s poorest citizens.
Shot over four years, COCAINE PRISON is a character driven film told from the point of view of people who make and transport cocaine. We laugh and cry with Mario, Hernan and Daisy as they fight against the odds in a hypocritical war that extends far beyond Bolivia’s borders.
We meet Hernan the day he arrives in San Sebastian during a period of riots in the prison and follow him until the day he is released. We watch Mario fighting for freedom against the bureaucracy and corruption of the justice system. Daisy is our guide, driving the film and giving us perspective on the bigger picture. Mario and Hernan also filmed their daily lives inside the jail, giving us a real insight into their story.
The story happens within a very unique environment; the prison itself is a microcosm of Bolivia and is the backdrop for the action, it resembles a citadel inside an old colonial Spanish house with restaurants, shops, hair-dressers and where the inmates have to buy or rent their cells.
COCAINE PRISON is a film made with the people, not simply about them. The film doesn’t shy away from the complexity, that only someone from the inside can give to an audience.