Flying out of Bolivia, three Norwegian teenagers are arrested with 22kg of cocaine in their luggage, triggering a media storm that changed their lives forever. From the start, Stina Brendemo and Christina Øygarden, are portrayed by the media as naïve Europeans, while Madelaine Rodriguez, also Norwegian, but with an Uruguayan father, is branded the “Latin Trafficker.”
A year later, Christina, the only girl who could afford to pay bail, was issued an emergency passport under a different name by the Norwegian Government; a document she used to illegally escape prosecution in Bolivia. Upon her return to Norway, she goes to trial with four other teens implicated in the smuggling attempt.
Meanwhile, Stina and Madelaine are sentenced to eleven years in a Bolivian prison.
Three years later, Stina becomes pregnant while in prison and the Norwegian media is rabid for coverage. ALFA, a popular men’s magazine, pays Stina for the exclusive rights to her story, and finances a Hollywood-style escape for her that includes sending mercenaries to Bolivia.
While in prison, Madelaine gives birth but canʼt afford the hospital costs, so she sells her story to a tabloid magazine. Handcuffed by her feet to a hospital bed, she says, “It doesn’t matter than my name is Rodriguez, I deserve my freedom as much as they do.”
Today, Stina has become a celebrity in Norway, and Christina is acquitted in a Norwegian court, meanwhile Madelaine remains behind bars in Bolivia, serving an 11-year sentence.
The only hard fact is that each girl was caught carrying 7kg of cocaine in her bag. How did their lives turn out so different when they were caught committing the same crime?
Starting in a jail in one of the world’s poorest countries, Bolivia, the film’s journey will build towards the climax: a trial in one of the world’s richest countries, Norway, where for the first time the three girls will testify in the same trial. How will their portrayal in the media affect the outcome? How will perceptions and biases of family background, race, and class play a part in the minds of the jury?
The young Latino people in the film are the children of migrants. However, while their native tongue is Norwegian and they are born and raised in Norway, they still face intense discrimination. It does not seem to be a coincidence that solely the teenagers with a South American background are the ones with the harshest sentences.
Unraveling this stranger-than-fiction story behind the group of young people in the most publicized narcotics case in Norway’s history, THE BOLIVIAN CASE deals with one of biggest issues of our time: the power of media affecting justice.