TIFF 2017 Movie Review: COCAINE PRISON (Bolivia/Australia/France 2017) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

From inside Bolivia’s craziest prison a cocaine worker, a drug mule and his little sister reveal the countries relationship with cocaine.

Director: Violeta Ayala
Writers: Violeta Ayala (story),
Stars: Daisy Torres, Hernan Torres, Mario Bernal

Review by Gilbert Seah

Shot in Bolivia — including inside the notorious San Sebastian prison — over five years, Violeta Ayala’s COCAINE PRISON takes a close look at two subjects – the cocaine trade and the conditions of the prison.

What the audience sees is definitely shocking in this engaging film. The film follows Hernan and his sister Deisy, two Bolivian teenagers going to high school in Cochabamba with dreams of starting a band. Hernan gets caught and put to jail after attempting to carry two kilograms of cocaine across the border to Argentina.

He is sent to San Sebastian prison, a scarcely staffed open-air facility where the prisoners make most of the rules. Prisons in Canada, in comparison look like a summer relax camp. In San Sebastian, inmates have to cough up US$2000 to buy a cell in the prison grounds or sleep outside with the risk off getting mugged.

Director Ayala also follows the drug trade emphasizing the workers harvesting the leaves to the mules like Hernan who get imprisoned while the real drug dealers go free.

There is a sort of happy ending for Hernan as he gets pardoned but things on the whole do not look good for anyone else, including Hernan after he is released. Director Ayala taught English in the prison, which gave her access to filming inside it.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=WgZJWuFgMew