Thursday, October 27, 2011

New feature documentary: 'Cocaine Unwrapped'

Transform is pleased to support the upcoming release of new feature documentary 'Cocaine Unwrapped' directed by Rachel Seifert. Below is the film trailer, and a description of the film - followed by details of the upcoming preview screenings in Liverpool (Nov 1st)and London (Nov 10th), and the public  premiere on Nov 29th. We have also included a video of a recent episode of Cinepolitics in which Steve Rolles from Transform discusses the film.


Film description from the film makers Dartmouth films;

"This film is the story of cocaine – from production to consumption, as it journeys from the USA to the countries of Latin America. Between scenes we hear from the Western consumers who are unaware of the reality of the trade which their consumption supports. Major Neill Franklin was a police officer for 33 years on the streets of Baltimore. As he drives around the now devastated, boarded up and frequently deserted streets of his community he explains how the decline of industry pushed many heads of households into illegal drug dealing. Incredibly, as he describes how a drugs deal is done on the streets, we see one played out in front of our eyes. Streets where once it was fun to live are not now safe – even in the daytime. Drawing on his experience as a law enforcement officer, Franklin is certain that the USA’s drug policies need to change.

In Columbia 140,000 members of the police are fighting the war on drugs – one of them, Lieutenant Jose Castro takes us on an operation to manually eradicate a coca plantation which, as the country’s vice president explains, is a key part of the war against drugs, which in his country is tied up with paramilitary and criminal gangs. But for Maria, a small farmer in the Tumaco region, the indiscriminate aerial spraying kills not just her coca but her chocolate, banana and yucca plants. As local community leaders explain, the programme causes ill health, economic stagnation and massive displacement of the population. Cesar Gavira, president of Columbia from 1990-94, believes that the social damage caused by the war against
drugs is “terrible….it destroys the lives of people who are not criminals and who are just trying to survive.”

Bolivia is taking a different approach. As president Evo Morales explains, coca leaf in its natural state is not cocaine – it is just a leaf. But for twenty years, until 2005, with the support of the USA the Bolivian government waged a war against coca growers, causing death and destruction. This all changed when Morales was elected president and allowed farmers to grow limited amounts of coca, as we hear from Lucio, a local farmer. At the meeting of the Chapare Coca Growers Union the local co-ordinator Tomas Rejas urges his members to support the government policy of reducing overall production, switching to other crops. And at the Windsor tea factory we see how coca tea is made for the consumer market – but a market which Bolivia cannot exploit because the UN Vienna Convention limits its export. Bolivia not, however, a cocaine free country, as we see when we join the Bolivian anti-drug police as they discover – and destroy – a cocaine factory in the jungle.
As Bolivia abandoned the war against drugs, Mexico stepped it up. We arrive in Cuidad Juarez as the police discover the body of yet another victim of the internecine battle between the drugs gangs. A local journalist, Luis, explains how the level of violence has escalated in recent years, showing the rows of graves already dug to bury the victims. We hear of violence and intimidation from both former gang members and lawyers. As Sanho Tree, of the Institute for Policy Studies explains, the government intervention destabilised the illegal trade, sparking the escalating war in which, as opposition senator Carlos Navarette claims, has led to the corruption of the police and state. Attorney General Medina Mora is convinced that the government is doing the right thing to create peace and security but points out that there would be no problem is there was no demand.

In Ecuador another South American president is taking a different tack than in the past. Rafael Correa, whose father spent three years in an American prison for drugs trafficking, has pardoned and released over 2000 women drugs mules. People like Theresa, who points out that it is not enough just to be let out of prison – there need to projects to help people earn a legal living. Visiting the women in prison we learn how many became mules out of necessity – widowed, with children but without education, this was the only route out of poverty.

Finally we return to the streets of Mexico and Baltimore. In Mexico we see children as young as 10 who have been drawn into a cycle of street living, drug taking and begging. People like Dr Huber Brocca are running a shelter to help get them off drugs but his hope is that the war on drug is replaced by a war on poverty. And in Baltimore we meet prisoner Erik Thompson, a street dealer imprisoned for 25 years – more than some murderers, more than some paedophiles. As Neill Franklin concludes – incarceration is not solving the problem, it is destroying communities. Gil Kerlikowske – President Obama’s drugs “czar” says that in future there will be a more balanced strategy, combining treatment and prevention as well as enforcement. But as the concluding contributions from many of the film’s contributors say: this is a problem of the West – we are the consumers who create the demand."

Cocaine Unwrapped – Preview Screenings

1st November screening at Picturehouse at Fact Liverpool at 6pm.
Tickets available here

10th November screening at Stratford East Picturehouse in London at 8:30pm.
Tickets avaialable here

Cocaine Unwrapped – Public Premiere
29th November screening at Curzon Soho in London (tickets for this not on sale yet)

More information:

Cinepolitics discussion of the Film:

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