New York Film Academy students are immersed in the heart of this great city which becomes part of their films and their lives.
Compellingly Kafkaesque, Cocaine Prison puts three remarkable faces on a too often abstract web of international injustice and systemic corruption.
The film continues to screen this week. Can you discuss the origins of your film? Had you been planning on making a documentary from the get-go?
I wanted to tell the story of the effects of the War on Drugs from my own personal experience. Coming from Bolivia, one of the four countries where the coca leaf grows and cocaine is produced, for me the War on Drugs was real.
I grew up with no notion of the legality of cocaine — for me, it was a way to make money. I knew it would be difficult for anyone to tell this story unless they were already in prison.
So yes, we wanted to make a film since the first time we went to San Sebastian prison. We taught English in order to have a reason to be there all the time. It was intense, and there were all sorts of inmates in the class, not only drug workers. There were rapists and murderers, too.
I learned a lot about humanity there. I had to let go of my feelings and treat everyone the same. It was physically draining and exhausting to spend hours a day in the prison.
It was Mario who asked us to give him a camera, so he could film his own story. Then Dan found these little cameras that recorded HD, so we initially gave a camera to both Mario and Hernan, and later to another two inmates.
I think we lost five cameras throughout filming. I believe that as soon as the inmates had their own cameras, the entire dynamic changed. I believe this is very important — as Mario felt he had his destiny in his own hands in making the film. One of the other inmates, who filmed a lot, was very talented.
The first time I went to Bolivia was with Violeta in On that trip when we were flying out of Bolivia I had the opportunity to sit next to one of the last DEA agents to leave Bolivia. He was on his way back to the U. The Morales government put an end to the cooperation with the DEA, and ordered them all out of Bolivia.
The good times had come to an end, he told me. He was so gung ho, and actually reveled in telling his story. I kicked myself for not having my camera with me.
So our original idea for the film had taken a serious turn, and we considered what to do. We decided to teach English in the prison. The teenage Deisy is quite a fascinating and fearless protagonist. At one point in the film you follow her on a cross-border drug run, which I assume was a reenactment.
Which made me wonder when in the process of filming this dangerous decision was made. Were you close to her at this time — aware of the risks she was taking? Where and how do you decide to draw the line? I met her outside the prison when she was only At the time Deisy was a bit lost.
Hernan was her oldest brother, and she spent lots of time with him in prison. Of course I worried a lot about her.The Filmmatic Screenplay Awards were created to locate and expose up-and-coming screenwriters, as well as to empower and educate those talented writers still waiting for their invitation to .
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