Tuesday, May 5, 2015

HotDocs 2015 Film Review - The Bolivian Case

Three teenage girls from Norway are detained while attempting to leave Bolivia with 22Kg of cocaine sewn into the lining of their suitcases. All three tell different stories and fingers are pointed at each girl.  The three are held in the San Sebastian Prison in the Cochabamba. The prison itself is the first of the series of unbelievable aspects of the film and the story.

The San Sebastian prison is more like a market that a prison. It appears that inmates have free reign to move around and there are both men and women present. In fact two of the girls end up pregnant and give birth during their time in jail. The first of the three to break from the group is Christina Ogarden.  She was the last one to get in on the trip to Boliva. Her parents raise her $30,000 bond to get her out on bail with the stipulation that she does not leave Bolivia. Christina soon breaks the terms of her release seemingly with the help of the Norwegian government, first getting out of Bolivia and then on to Norway itself. Back in Norway the other members of the gang are charged with masterminding the event or helping the girls. Each will face trial and possibly prison terms in the Norwegian penal system.

Director Violeta Ayala captures the sensational to the ludicrous aspects of the case. Christina who had returned to Norway was walking freely on the streets until the government decided to try her for her role as a mule in the incident. The other two girls Madeline then Stina became pregnant while serving their jail time. The courts then give Stina bail for $60,000 but she is not aloud to leave the city much more the country however Ayala's lens is present as she skypes with her mother and magazine columnists who plot her escape out of Bolivia, first to Brazil then on to Norway with her own camera crew in tow.  Just about every other character in the film has a moment when they look into the camera and state. This is between us right?

The accused millennials never seem to grasp the seriousness of their situation. The don't think of the consequences of what could go wrong with many smiling and joking about the events until they realize that they are facing real jail time. It's also a compelling social study on how the public reacts to the involved parties. There appears to be a split in who's viewed as real Norwegians. The accused of South American heritage or dwellers of the big city of Oslo seem to get harsher treatment than the others involved.

The Bolivian Case deals with events ripped right from the headlines of magazines and newspapers on two continents. It's never clear who knew what parts of the complete plan but it does appear that those accused that told a straight story seemed to get a worse fate in the end.  Director Ayala presents a concise fast paced story that is worth a look.

***  Out of 4.

The Bolivian Tale | Violeta Ayala | Bolivia / Australia / Columbia / U.S.A. | 2015 | 75 Minutes.

Tags: Smuggling, Cocaine, Mule, Prison, Bail, Flight Risk, South America, Foreigners.

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