After Pablo Escobar’s death in 1993, the Colombian drug lord’s 16-year-old son publicly vowed to kill those responsible. In “Sins of My Father,” a much-mellowed Juan Pablo Escobar (since renamed Sebastian Marroquin in order to sever those painful family ties) has abandoned all thoughts of revenge, attempting instead to reach out and make amends to the sons of political figures Escobar had eliminated. Worldwide auds will find Sebastian’s personal insights about his father intriguing, though this limited appeal TV-ready docu’s primary service is to the Colombian people, for whom the reconciliation between families marks a chance to move forward.
For Argentine-born filmmaker Nicolas Entel, the project began after meeting Marroquin, who had chosen to leave Colombia and rebuild his identify apart from his father’s conflicted legacy (though notorious for his crimes, Escobar is also idealized by the younger generation). Clearly, Marroquin has suffered for his family history, despite having chosen a very different path for himself (though some authorities contest he’s still involved with the cartel), and the doc serves to demystify Escobar’s iconic status, humanize those who survive him and atone for his crimes.
As such, the undertaking would probably be better suited to a long article or book than to the talking-heads format Entel pursues. Interviews are either conducted in the swanky studies of Marroquin and his fellow orphans (the sons of assassinated political heroes Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galan) or presented in a strange surveillance-style format, with cameras eavesdropping from behind bushes, while a narrator ties things back to Colombian people with frequent use of the word “we.”
As for us non-Colombian auds, we benefit more from recaps of Escobar’s outrageous career, during which the film takes on a certain energy lacking in the kiss-and-make-up sequences. Entel unearths vintage footage of the lavish lifestyle at Escobar’s ranch, the Hacienda Napoles, and presents the surprising revelation that, contrary to his most-wanted status in the U.S., Escobar was something of a local saint. It’s strange to think of this mythic figure as a Robin Hood-like hero, redistributing First World wealth to aid the impoverished people of Medellin, and yet “Sins of My Father” suggests how, had things gone differently, Escobar might have used his power for good.
Such positive change is what Marroquin seeks now, disowning his father’s destructive acts (after being shut out by the Colombian political sphere, Escobar turned on his country and ordered unimaginable acts of terrorism against its leaders) and embracing his enemies. Still, even with the context offered by the film, outsiders aren’t likely to appreciate the historical significance of the sit-down between Marroquin and the sons of Lara Bonilla and Galan, an encounter dramatically staged to feel like a visit to Donald Trump’s boardroom on “The Apprentice.”
In dramatic terms, the scene represents the anti-“Godfather” — the sort of detente theoretically impossible in films where conflicts escalate until one side has been permanently crippled. For most, Escobar’s story climaxes where this one begins, and yet “Sins of My Father” marks an important coda.