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‘Embrace of the Serpent’ Co-Writer Jacques Toulemonde Shifts Gears on Digital Series ‘Camionero’

The short format web series takes a fresh and funny look at the done-to-death world of Colombian narco-trafficking

Colombian writer-director Jacques Toulemonde, best known for co-writing that country’s 2016 Oscar nominee “Embrace of the Serpent,” is in France at this week’s Canneseries Digital event to compete with his new short-form series “Camionero” at Canneseries Digital, a short-format web series strand.

Colombia’s Evidencia Films and Vivendi’s Studio Plus produced the series, which is a departure from Toulemonde’s more recent dramatic work. In addition the “Embrace” co-scribe, he also wrote and directed 2015’s “Anna,” his debut feature, which scored nominations at the Goya, Fenix and Platino awards.

“Camionero” follows Abelardo, a Colombian truck driver and recovering drug addict, as he makes one bad decision after another, all in hopes of throwing a quinceañera party for his daughter that will put all the other quinciñeras to shame.

As costs pile up, Abelardo is forced to take a job he had hoped never to do, driving a trailer lined with cocaine across the massive South American country. Predictably, things begin to peel out of control. Lucky for him, the people who would see him fail might be even dumber.

One theme that sets “Camionero” apart from most other drug-related fiction, is that it shows why normal people get caught up in drug use and trafficking.

“People think drugs can be cool,” Toulemonde explained, “The problem is that eventually things get bad. These people are all kind of stupid… really stupid. But at the same time, they are funny and touching, and you like these guys.”

Deep down though, Toulemonde says the series is about something more universal to Colombians.

“It talks about how Colombia was corrupted by drug trafficking,” he explained, “and how everyone is involved one way or another, even if we just see it from the outside.”

So, why make a comedy? “Because, at the same time, we have to be able to laugh about it.”

The cast is composed, intentionally, of equal parts professional, well-known actors from the region: Andrés Crespo (“Pescador”) and Angie Cepeda (“A Night in Old Mexico”), and non-professionals making their debuts: Tania Valencia and Karin Matiz. And, the director was full of praise for the cast, and the experience of working with them.

“That’s a way I like to work,” explained Toulemonde, “I love to mix professional and non-professional actors. I like to improvise. Sometimes big name actors can rely too much on their technique. When they work with non-professionals, they can find something fresh. It works the other way too, non-professional actors learn from the others.”

Toulemonde says that his first experience in the relatively new format was a great deal of fun, and taught him a lot.

“I’m a much better writer and director than I was before. I don’t know if I’m good yet, but I learned a lot.” Modest words from such an accomplished young filmmaker.

“Camionero” will be available to stream on the Studio Plus app this fall.

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