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Fugitives – Chile’s crime debut on UK television

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History will be made on 20 September when Channel 4 broadcasts the first Chilean programme to be aired on British television – and it’s crime fiction you’ll be watching. Fugitives (Prófugos) is a 2011 series made by HBO Latin America that will take you into the gritty world of Chilean drug trafficking as a team of four men attempt to smuggle a tanker full of liquid cocaine into Chile.

Things go wrong early on for the four men. Flying to La Paz and picking up the consignment is easy enough, as is driving it across Bolivia and crossing the border. But before long tension begins to grow among the four of them. In episode one you’ll discover that they don’t know each other very well, and although Mario Moreno thinks he’s the hardest man in the group, world wary and unpredictable Salamanca looks like he’s taking charge.

Tracksuit, pot belly, glasses, psychotic. Moreno is a dangerous customer.

Crime syndicates
However, it’s the younger members of the quartet that might be more interesting in the long run. Vicente’s mother is Kika, matriarch of a Santiago crime family who is pulling the strings from a prison cell. In fact, it’s her choice of staff that seems to be causing much of the tension. Then there’s Alvaro, who seems to be transmitting information about the operation to somebody else, in secret.

Directed by Pablo Larraín and Jonathan Jakubowicz, the show won an International Emmy in 2014, and doesn’t hold back on tension or sudden, bloody violence. It might sound a bit like a Chilean Breaking Bad, but the mood is darker and angrier, with distrust growing within the group and the constant threat, not so much of detection, but of infighting between them. Their long drive through Chile’s grey-brown desert region is punctuated by ruthless acts, and phonecalls back to Kika.

Episode one opens with a car chase, with one of the fugitives shot and bleeding, and then takes us into the past to see how it all transpired. Were they double-crossed? Have they been triple-crossed? What’s the mole in the operation up to? Are the Feds after them, or are the feds in on it? Is another crime syndicate trying to spike the whole deal?

Once the first episode has been shown on Channel 4, the entire series of 13 hour-long programmes will be available on Walter Presents/All4.

For more Latin American crime check out Merciless or Magnifica 70, both from Brazil and both available on Walter Presents.

Eventually the only answer is to escape to the wilderness, with the Andes as a backdrop.

At the hideout, a reckoning between Vicente, his sister and Salamanca (seated).

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