LOS CABOS, Mexico — Gaston Pavlovich, producer of “The Irishman,” has swooped on two prime IPs, “El Juicio” (The Trial”), a privileged-access account of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s New York court case, and “Los Narcos Gringos,” a portrait of U.S. drug runners.
The two non-fiction works are both written by Washington-based Jesus Esquivel, whom Pavlovich describes as “the most important journalist in Mexico in the eyes of many people.” Working out of Mexico City-based Fábrica de Cine whose credits also include Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” with Liam Neeson and Adam Driver, and Tom Hanks-starrer “A Hologram for the King,” Pavlovich aims to adapt “The Trial” as a feature film, and “Los Narcos Gringos” as a drama series.
Both are potential explosive material. Based on interviews at the time of the trail with Guzmán himself, wife and other witnesses, the English-language “The Trial,” which will be published in the U.S. next year, drills down on the information emerging from the trail of the Mexican and non-Mexican business, political and institutional interests involved in one way or another in the criminal empire of Chapo Guzman.
A “powerful character-driven courtroom drama-thriller on a global scale,” “The Trail” is “not a Mexican story specifically, said Pavlovich.
“It’s about the trial that shook the world during the few days that it lasted, turning on the head of the major cartel in the world,”” Pavlovich told Variety at Los Cabos where “The Irishman” opened the festival, presented by Robert De Niro.
He went on: “Guzman was prosecuted in New York, in U.S. territory not Mexican territory, because all the information that would be revealed in the trial: the caliber of involvement of worldwide players, the amount of politicians, institutions and organizations involved. It’s a much bigger story than just drug dealing in Mexico. It’s about worldwide phenomena.”
The film will strictly comply with what is written in Jesus Esquivel´s novel, Pavlovich added.
What Esquivel set out to achieve in “The Trial” was to place the courtcase in a bigger picture.
“From the start of the trail, when I arrived in the early morning at the Brooklyn court and saw such security measures – for the U.S. government, this was the most dangerous terrorist in the world – I rapidly sensed that we were like the cast in a film or a series, in which some reporters assumed leading roles, and looked for the scandal, morbid details in the case,” Esquivel said.
He added: “From my standpoint, that reduced the real importance that a case like that against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera really had: the gigantic problem that the two countries face: in Mexico, the violence, and in the U.S the huge consumption of drugs.”
“What became clear in the trial was that the U.S. government – the DEA and FBI – protects certain narco-traficantes via what it calls co-operation pacts, said Esquivel, instancing one moment when Vicentillo, a witness, was taken from his cell by the DEA and made to call a mobile number connecting him to his father, “El Mayo” Zambada, one of the kingpins of Guzman’s Sineloa cartel.
The trail exposed how the narcos reclute people to transfer legally money from the U.S. and other parts of Latin America to pay for cocaine, Esquivel said. “But nobody investigates this not the government of Mexico nor the U.S. government – because it would be bad for the economy of the U.S.”
The real protagonists of “The Trail” will be the the prosecutors, the defense, the witnesses. The film will be very largely shot in English,.the language used at the trial, said Pavlovich who added he would look for “A-listers” to play the protagonists.
The just-signed deal between Fabrica de Cine and Esquivel sees Pavlovich acquiring the IPs of both books and the complete collaboration of Esquivel to bring them to the big or small screen.
Pavlovich will look for a director who is “very strong on character-driven stories.” He told Variety that he was moving fast to put “The Trial” into production to roll off “the impact that I know the book will have in the U.S.”
Based on Esquivel’s non-fiction work “Los Narcos Gringos” which came out three years ago in Mexico, the TV series will blow the roof on the U.S. side of the narco trade. Given the different chapters detailing the involvement of America’s professional classes, from bankers to even soccer moms, Pavlovich sees the adaptation as more of a series than a feature.
“The world portrayed by ‘Los Narcos Gringos’ is not one of drug addicts or sicario violence, but entrepreneurship, the U.S. business side to a criminal world. There’s a lot of stories to be told that are totally unexpected,” Pavlovich said.
“Not just Mexicans and Colombians are involved in the drug trade. The real dealers and movers of this industry in the U.S. don’t look Latino and are not necessarily violent people.”
“The series will ask what makes a soccer mom drop off her kids at a match and then go out and distribute drugs among other hard to believe true stories of American Society.
Esquivel told Variety of just one example of what he calls the “racism” of the U.S. drug trade. “The key figure is the broker, the middle-man. They’ll choose white people, white mothers with blue eyes. and ask if they’d like to have the money for a new car and $10,000 in cash, without doing anything illegal.”
“All they have to do is take their kids on a short vacation, they’ll be told to stop over at certain hotels and leave their car unlocked. They’ll see some baggage appear in the car, which they shouldn’t ever touch. Do you think a police man will stop a white woman with kids on the highway?”
The baggage could contain at least $5 million in cash.”The narcos call then “bajadoras de dinero” because they drive from the north of the U.S. to the south.”