Review of “News Of A Kidnapping”: A New Look, From the Inside

This weekend, the series adaptation of the report by Gabriel García Márquez premiered on Amazon Prime Video. This is our "News of a Kidnapping" review .

Still from the series 'News of a kidnapping'

Photo: YT-Prime Video

LatinAmerican Post | Staff

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Leer en español: Reseña de “Noticia de un secuestro”: una nueva mirada, desde adentro

In 1996, Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian Nobel Prize winner, made a return to journalism. This was the year of the publication of "News of a Kidnapping", a book in which he reported on the kidnappings, deaths, and rescues of some victims of the group of drug traffickers known as Los Extraditables. This group functioned in the early 1990s as an appendage of the Medellín Cartel, led by drug lord Pablo Escobar. Los Extraditables was, therefore, a criminal group that dedicated itself to kidnapping notorious people from the spheres of power, mainly journalists. The reason behind was to force the government to negotiate the conditions of trial and extradition of the drug traffickers of the Medellín Cartel.

"News Of A Kidnapping" was inspired in 1993 by Maruja Pachón, who spent six months in the hands of Los Extraditables. In this book, García Márquez carries out an exhaustive investigation that aims not only to tell the story of Maruja and her husband, the senator Alberto Villamizar, but also that of the other ten hostages who were at that time in the hands of the aforementioned group.

A little less than 30 years later, the television series adaptation of "News Of A Kidnapping" premieres on Prime Video. Shot and produced in Colombia, entirely in Spanish, the Prime Video series wanted to honor the journalistic work of the Nobel Prize winner without becoming obsessed with fidelity to the book.

The project to adapt "News Of A Kidnapping" was proposed by Rodrigo García, a well-known producer, screenwriter and director, son of Gabriel García Márquez. Rodrigo was the producer of the series and worked with the director on its adaptation. Colombian writers also participated in the script, which was very important for García, its producer. The director is Chilean Andrés Wood, known for "Machuca" and "Violeta Went to Heaven." The idea of a foreign director and Colombian screenwriters was a condition of García. He thought it was good that the director should soak up the Colombian 90s context, while in counterpoint the screenwriters were natives of the country in which the events take place.

Adapt Garcia Márquez

It is the first time that a work of the Nobel Prize has been entirely adapted in Colombia. The other adaptations that have been made of his literary work are all foreign productions or in collaboration with other countries. It is for this reason and because it is a sensitive issue in the recent history of Colombia, that for Rodrigo García it was crucial that the series be recorded in Spanish and produced in Colombia.

Read also: "Noticia de un secuestro": Film Adaptations Of García Márquez's Work

Although "News Of A Kidnapping" is new in this aspect, it is not in its theme. We have already seen before on streaming platforms a portrait of the most violent years in Colombia and other Latin American countries. Undoubted was the success of "Narcos" on Netflix, a production with which "News Of A Kidnapping" shares some actors. Right now "Santa Evita" is also being broadcast on the Star+ platform, which is an adaptation of the novel by Tomás Eloy Martínez, in which Rodrigo García also participated as a producer.

What's new, then, in "News Of A Kidnapping"?

In an interview with María Jimena Duzán for her podcast "A Fondo", Rodrigo García affirms that he has a different intention with the adaptation of his father's report. Although, he has felt fascinated by the figure of the capo, on this occasion he wanted to stop giving him prominence. There are many streaming series, but also the soap operas that have been made about Pablo Escobar or about the famous narcos in Colombia. In all of them, the figure of the capo is the protagonist. This may be because studying him and playing him on screen is in an effort to understand his power and evil.

However, here we will not see Pablo Escobar. He is heard in the recordings that he sends to President César Gaviria and to the families of the hostages, but he is not interpreted on the screen. Thus, the series manages to change the focus of the narrative on the war on drugs and puts it this time on the victims left by this war.

The common thread of the series is the kidnapping of Maruja Pachón and the efforts of her husband, Alberto Villamizar, to negotiate her release. In addition to recounting everything related to her kidnapping, the series also shows some aspects of their marital relationship and the relationship that each one had with politics. Maruja was a journalist and sister-in-law of the assassinated Liberal leader Luis Carlos Galán. Alberto was at that time a senator of the Republic.

"News Of A Kidnapping", however, is not only about this marriage, but also, as García Márquez expressed it in the acknowledgments of his book, it is about "the great collective kidnapping" of the ten people who were in the hands of Los Extraditables in the early 1990s. Thus, the kidnapping and death in a crossfire of Diana Turbay, daughter of former president Julio César Turbay and journalist for the Criptón newscast, is also told; among other events.

The Prime Video series is narrated in a very similar tone to those we have already seen about Colombia: it could be said that it is an action series. However, it manages to be novel in another aspect, in addition to the change of focus from the capo to the victims. "News Of A Kidnapping" is also empathic with the perpetrators. Not with Pablo Escobar, who is removed from the screen; but with the more direct but less intellectual perpetrators. There is a relationship that is established between the hostages and those who watch them; even with those who end up murdering them. The exploration of this link is the most interesting thing about "News Of A Kidnapping" and perhaps —hopefully— it sets a precedent to complicate the narrative of the war against drug trafficking and the armed conflict in Colombia.


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