Sins of my Father (2010) dir. Nicholas Entel
By Alan Bacchus
The highly literal title of the picture adequately tells the story of a son atoning for the sins of his father. In this case, the son is the child of notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Having known little about Pablo Escobar’s story prior to the screening, the film works well as both a comprehensive history of the controversial and violent life of the cocaine king of the 80's and the effect of such a life on the children involved.
Pablo Escobar died in 1994, and to separate himself from his sordid legacy his son, Juan Pablo Escobar chose to change his name to Sebastian Marroquin, and live in exile in Argentina. In present day Argentinian director Entel follows Sebastien’s attempts to reconcile his father’s violent past and connect with the sons of the men Escobar killed during the violent political drug war.
Going back into television archives, still photos and home movies of Escobar himself, we learn of the rise of Escobar’s Medellin’s cartel into a billion dollar business. Early on Escobar’s contributions to the poor communities of Columbia, establishing infrastructure, relocating ghetto housing communities and building soccer fields for kids gave him the moniker of a Columbian Robin Hood. But when his attempts to get into legitimate politics are stymied by his own political colleagues the lustre of Escobar-the hero rubs off revealing him as a vengeful despotic madman.
Escobar famously ordered the assassination of two of Columbia’s most prominent politicians, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galan. These two events not only made Escobar an enemy of the Columbian people, but caused the sons of Galan and Bonilla to take up the torch of justice against Escobar’s stranglehold on the country.
And so the forgiveness of the sons of Galan and Bonilla becomes the symbol of catharsis for Sebastien.
Entel captures Sebastian’s journey to connect with his rivals, finding honest and genuine revelations of personal guilt and sorrow in a series of interviews at various stages in the journey. With competence he successfully interweaves the parallel stories of the Galan/Bonilla sons in the present revisiting their memories of their own father’s deaths and their own feelings of vengeance they once harboured. The men are sophisticated and self-aware and have clearly reconciled the events in the past a long time ago and so there‘s a distinct lack of suspense for this meeting. While their conversation is polite and congenial and accommodating, between the political lines, knowing the entrapment the drug trade has had on the nation for the past 30 years, the gravitas of the meeting for both them and their country is wholly palpable.