Cocaine Prison

From inside one of Bolivia’s notorious prisons, a cocaine worker, a drug mule, and his little sister reveal the country's relationship with cocaine. Cocaine Prison puts into perspective the War on Drugs and the lives of the ‘disposable’ people and questions the effort to incarcerate cocaine workers while banks worldwide have unfettered potential to launder billions of cocaine dollars every year.

Bolivia's relationship with cocaine is not like the rest of Latin America where the 'business' is controlled by violence. For Bolivians, cocaine is just another commodity produced for export and traded in a consumer-driven global market. Over the past forty years Boliviaʼs economy has grown dependent on the global demand for cocaine. The War on Drugs has brought violence to Latin America, but itʼs also created opportunity, freeing thousands from poverty in Bolivia where the price for coca-leaf has only increased since this war began. In 1988, the U.S. in their War on Drugs coerced Bolivia to enact Law 1008, effectively redefining trafficking to mean, “to produce, possess, keep, store, transport, deliver, administer or give as a gift.” Half of Bolivia could have been classified traffickers but mostly the ʻlittle fishʼ ended up in prison within a corrupt and bureaucratic justice system, to a point where 70% of inmates in Bolivian jails havenʼt had a trial. Set in Bolivia, COCAINE PRISON is a story driven, feature length documentary told from the point of view of people who make and transport cocaine. Bolivia is the second largest cocaine producer in the world, where a third of the workforce is employed in the cocaine industry. Shot over three years, the film begins inside San Sebastian Prison, an overcrowded citadel with an open economy operating within its walls; a microcosm of Bolivia. The story follows three interlinked lives: Mario, a cocaine worker fighting for freedom; Hernan, a drug mule who wants to be a drug-boss; and his younger sister Daisy, who struggles to escape the lure to traffic cocaine. In a country where “the trade” isn’t ruled by violence and the anti-drug czar is caught trafficking cocaine, the three characters dispel the gun-totting ‘Narco’ myth, revealing the complex truth behind the War on Drugs. Marioʼs story centres on his fight for a trial to reveal his bossʼ identity; Daisyʼs on her struggle to free her brother Hernan as she decides between smuggling cocaine to Argentina or becoming the first person in her village to go to university. By the end of the film Hernan recovers his freedom thanks to a presidential pardon issued by Evo Morales. Mario and Hernan film their daily lives inside the jail, giving us a real insight into the story. COCAINE PRISON is a reflective tale about cocaine. Without glorifying the cocaine business the film will engage the audience to understand Bolivia; as Hernan's 6 year-old brother says, “coca is money, coca is survival.” Supported by: IDFA Fund, Tribeca Film Institute, Fonds Sud Cinema France, Strasburg Film Fund, Norwegian Film Institute, Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Developed at the Berlinale Talent Campus 2010 / Selected to pitch at Sheffield Meetmarket and IDFA Forum 2010 / One of 8 projects selected for the Film Independent Lab 2012.

Production team