“The White Slave, Because Blood Is the Same Color,” the latest super-production telenovela from Colombia’s Caracol TV, is being acclaimed by the Colombian broadcaster as one of its most successful series ever, closing 20-plus territories, including deals with Telemundo for the U.S. (Turner) and Chile’s Chilevision.
In Colombia, stripped weekday in Caracol TV primetime, “The White Slave” launched Jan. 26 to a 33.7% share. It pinched 28.1%-35.5% figures through March 7, consistently beating main rival RCN’s offering by 5-10 percentage points. That, per broadcaster sources, figures to make it the highest-rated show on Colombian TV so far this year.
“White Slave” sales take in the U.S., Brazil and most of Central America and the Caribbean, such the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua. Paraguay and Peru have also closed in South America.
Other sales are to Africa, Poland, Armenia and Slovenia, as “The White Slave” carves out deals in Eastern Europe, traditionally, after Latin America, telenovela’s second most fertile sales region.
“The White Slave” is Caracol TV’s flagship series at next month’s Mip TV trade fair in Cannes, the world’s second-biggest TV contents market.
It “is one of Caracol Television’s most successful series in international selling more than 20 countries in just one month on the market,” said Lisette Osorio, Caracol TV VP, international sales. Clients are asking for it dubbed into English, and it will play primetime on Telemundo, she added.
Kicking off with the camera gliding through cotton fields on an 1821 plantation in Santa Marta, “The White Slave” turns on a young Spanish woman, known as the Marchioness, who returns to Colombia c. 1840 to free the slaves who adopted and cared for her after her white parents were killed.
“The White Slave” kicks in two years after Simon Bolivar wrestled independence from Spain and begin to faze out slavery and unspools as Colombia builds to official abolition in 1851.
Series is produced in a now familiar scenario the world over, where the entry of Netflix – which launched in Colombia as early as Sept. 2011 and shot “Narcos” there — and popularity of high-end U.S. shows is forcing incumbent players to raise their game.
Following on 2012’s “Pablo Escobar, The Drug Lord” and 2015’s “Emeralds,” “The White Slave” was 100% shot on location with Sony F55 cameras, has 60 segs and the hallmark melodrama and plot trope of a woman growing up outside her aristocratic family. But it also boasts frequent extended traveling shots, often aerial, zooming in or out from dramatic landscapes, often from the air, and an attempt at historical accuracy in authenticated period costumes, 11 locations and battle and crowd scenes.
Tipping its hat to “12 Years a Slave,” one slave girl is flayed by her master (and lover) for dropping a plate – a violence which is historically accurate but raised polemics in Colombia. In a mixture of telenovela tropes and social point, Victoria, the heroine, battles not only for her across-the-tracks star-crossed love with Miguel, whom she grew up with. But Victoria returns to Colombia already an aristocrat, with the secret mission of freeing the slaves in the region and, closer to traditional telenovela twists, avenge her parents’ death at the hands of Nicolás, a hold-out slave trader.
Colombian viewers and critics appreciated Caracol’s drive to reveal part of its national identity. “Watching ‘The White Slave’ is a re-encounter with our Afro being which makes us Colombian,” writes Omar Rincón, in El Tiempo, Caracol’s most-read daily newspaper.
He adds: “’The White Slave’ is doing well because it’s a production like we haven’t seen in some time: immense landscapes, a choral story, calm visuals, allowing us to enjoy a deep story about our history our blood and identity.”
His only quibble: Each detail of the woman slaves’ head buns “make them look less like slaves than catwalk fashion models.”