TIFF 2017: ‘Cocaine Prison’

By: Jessica Goddard

Violeta Ayala’s Cocaine Prison is a Spanish language documentary that follows the intertwined lives of three people; two of which are entangled in the Bolivian justice system for their involvement in the illegal cocaine trade.

When Hernan, a Bolivian teenager, is caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Argentina, he’s thrown into the dilapidated San Sebastian prison where he meets Mario, and the two develop a friendship.  Meanwhile, Hernan’s endlessly motivated sister Deisy tries desperately for years to get Hernan released.  Over the course of the film, the prison becomes scandalously overcrowded and the inefficiencies of the justice system in Bolivia grow increasingly apparent.

This documentary is unique in that the filmmakers allow the inmates to film themselves with handheld cameras, granting an agency which affirms the film’s grit and authenticity.  This account of life under a broken system is equal parts revealing, appalling, and necessarily heartwarming.


For more information on the festival, visit the official TIFF webpage here.

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