Fiction struggles to handle truth in Francisco Norden’s “The Deal,” a densely plotted piece about a real-life award-winning 1990s British docu on drug-smuggling that was later shown to have been staged. Engaging and intelligent item, the first from Norden in 20 years, raises interesting political and moral questions, but is monotone as drama, with the script refusing to tease out the suspense implicit in the source material as one true-but-unlikely event segues into another. Spanish-speaking fests could take a look.
Rosalba (Isabella Santo Domingo) asks dicey contact John Maria (Ramiro Meneses) to play a high-ranking heroin dealer in a faux documentary that London-based director Cecil (Luis Fernandez) plans to make about drug-running in Colombia. Early scenes play up comedy, but when Rosalba blows the whistle on the op to a Brit newspaper, the pic becomes an intricate, slightly wobbly web of cat-and-mouse corruption, its entanglements stretching from the Cali and Bogota cartels to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Thesps, forced into roles that are little more than plot pawns, tackle the job with varying success, but the lack of dramatic focus and shorthand characterization mean emotional involvement remains low.