In recent years, Colombian television has unrolled one telenovela after another with the central theme of narco-trafficking — “narco-novelas” that revel in the colorful lives of drug lords and sometimes create caricatures of the police officers and public officials who pursue them.
With “Boss of Evil,” the creators said they wanted to remind Colombians about the heroes who fought Escobar and the chaos the kingpin wrought upon this country. So as the series begins, the philosopher George Santayana’s famous saying flashes across the screen: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Camilo Cano said Caracol was especially careful to accurately depict the ordeals of Escobar’s most intractable enemies, among them Justice Minister Lara Bonilla and another who lost his life in the fight, the reformist presidential hopeful Luis Carlos Galan, who was shot dead in 1989. The actors who played those slain leaders met with their children and widows to determine how best to portray them, which led to some uneasy moments.
And Cano recounted how he — as well as his siblings and mother — had to go through the reenactment of his father’s death.
“I bring my father to life to have him killed once more,” said Cano, 46. “Twenty-five years ago, we went to a clinic where he was dying. Today, we re-create his death. We see how two hit men go up to his car, shoot him, kill him — things that we had never seen.”
Criticism of the series
Not everyone believes that the creators have accomplished what they set out to do.
Television critic Omar Rincon praised the acting, the scriptwriting and the elaborately staged scenes that have made the series the most costly in Colombian television history. But he said the series has a flaw in that viewers see Escobar’s life from start to finish while the heroes appear suddenly and briefly.
“People don’t accept that Cano and Lara are the good guys,” said Rincon, explaining that viewers do not connect with the heroes the way they do with Escobar.
Perhaps not surprisingly, other detractors hail from Escobar’s family in Medellin.
His sister, Luz Maria Escobar, said the portrayal of her mother as a woman who encourages a young Pablo to be good at being bad is distorted.
“The producers say this is so history does not repeat itself, but their only concern is making money and not producing a balanced review of an era that was so painful for the country,” she said.
Like the series or not, people such as Carol Ochoa, an engineer in Bogota, are watching, with “Boss of Evil” garnering about a 50 percent share of television viewers for its prime-time slot.
“I like it because what happened back then affected Colombia, and I want to know how it all happened,” said Ochoa, who is 30 and was a small girl during Escobar’s heyday. “It’s not all real, of course, but I think it gives a good perspective of who was Pablo Escobar.”