Saturday, 27 August 2016

Being Colombian And Watching Narcos On Netflix

Being colombian and seeing the Narcos suggestion on Netflix, I felt it was my duty to not watch it; to not promote this kind of negative image of my country which was been widely spread for decades in ridiculous misinformed ways by the film industry like showing Bogotá as a jungle with cannons at all sides and missiles shooting, everybody being drug dealer, guerrilla, prostitute or corrupt or humble farmers and also, apparently, we Colombians also wear traditional Mexican attire (rolling eyes for the millionth time here). I was firm on my ground for the longest time, until last weekend when curiosity took the best of me. And boy! Was I wrong about Narcos.

For those of you who don't know it, Narcos is the story of drug trafficking in Colombia beginning in the 80's, told from the view of a DEA agent who moves to Colombia to aid with the conflict. I must warn you, it is sexually explicit, very violent and a lot of cursing. One of the things I like is the amount of amazing Colombian actors. I would point them out to my husband every time another one showed up and he found it funny that I was declaring them all as "one of the bests". Well, it is true. They did indeed cast the best actors of Colombia for the majority of the characters. Actors I grew up watching and admiring their acting skills which where spotless every time. And of that, we have a lot of (I should clarify that none of them are part of the main characters roles, nor you will, unfortunately, find them if you Google Narcos cast).

Despite of the warning at the beginning saying the names are mostly fictional and it would be coincidental otherwise, they are the right names, at least for the Colombian characters I remember from back in the day: Presidents' names, leaders (whereas be drug dealers, military or guerrilla) and big names in Colombia. Some characters are not accurate with the appearance of the real ones, like Valeria Velez who is actually a red haired caucasian woman and Diana Turbay who was blonde with short straight hair and Caucasian as well (she is represented with darker skin, curly and long black hair).

So far the only thing I saw that was highly wrong was the moment when the then presidential candidate Carlos Gaviria gives a speech that would define on which side he will be and it starts with "there's a story in Colombia that says God made Colombia so beautiful and rich in landscapes and biodiversity that it wasn't fair for the other countries, so he inhabited it with bad people". That's the only time I felt offended because it implies ALL Colombians are bad people which is clearly NOT. The original story about the creation of Colombia ends instead with "so he gave them bad leaders" which makes more sense and is accurate too.

But what draw me in was the historic accuracy. It is heart wrenching for me to watch it as a Colombian who grew up in the middle of this conflict. The pain, the fears, the frustrations of many of us who couldn't do anything about it but pray that we weren't in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a sad truth but a truth indeed and I appreciate that effort in the show. Why? It gives me a better, wider understanding of why so many unbelievable things happened and how everything was connected. I appreciate the humanity placed in the show for the victims and the people who were trying to do what was right. I appreciate that it shows the world what really happened and hopefully change their thoughts towards Colombians with what is true; that no, we are not all terrorists, guerrilla, narcos or prostitutes and it is not correct to make fun of it in front of a Colombian because it hurts, a lot. We might put on a smile, but inside is a different story. Putting it simple, you wouldn't joke with a Syrian refugee about their country's conflict and what they went through, would you?

I personally had friends and relatives saving themselves from a bomb by a hair, many times, because they had a last minute change of heart about going to the location that would be bombed right after. Back in the day we didn't have cellphones so we had to be calling relatives constantly from public phones every time we were going somewhere else so we could know who was where in case a bomb exploded and we would freak out if the didn't show at the agreed time frame. I woke up one morning to the sound of police sirens because someone had been killed in front of our building by a hitman; narcos related crime. I knew people who had been kidnapped and escaped in epic, unbelievable ways and people who survived a kidnapping attempt. I was too young to go clubbing at the time but if you were old enough, you were better off going to a house party. It was safer. If you went clubbing, you were teasing your luck. In an act of rebellion, many went clubbing anyway, many became witnesses of assassinations and kidnappings. It was indeed a war zone and we were all caught in it.

So if there's a show about drug dealers you are going to watch, please make Narcos from Netflix that choice. They have done their homework indeed.