From Chicago To Medellin

This tape is a demo for a yet uncompleted feature documentary. The authors (a married couple) start the tape with the information that theirs is an unusual union, with the husband being from Medellin, Columbia and the wife from Chicago, both places famous for organized crime. This piece draws a comparison between Al Capone's Chicago of the 1920s and Pablo Escobar's Medellin of the 1980s. Historical information is provided and interesting use is made of old Hollywood gangster clips.

00:40Copy video clip URL The tape opens on a bath playing in a kiddie pool, with Sally Station narrating. She says that she and her husband have incurred some ill will due to her being from Chicago and him from Medellin, Colombia. She says that the reputation of our origins is something “we just have to live with.”

01:20Copy video clip URL A couple titles read “From Chicago … to Medellin,” interposed with shots of destruction and then an interview with a man on the streets of Chicago. He is asked what he knows about Medellin.

01:30Copy video clip URL He says that he knows of the Medellin cartel and that it’s in Colombia — but not much else.

01:40Copy video clip URL Another title slide reads: “A film proposal by Diego Garcia-Moreno and Sally Station.” It’s followed by an interview with a man in Medellin, who is asked the analogous question: what do you know about Chicago?

01:50Copy video clip URL He answers that he has heard of it being some sort of mafia. A woman, asked the same question, answers that it’s a place full of drugs; another one brings up the name Al Capone.

02:15Copy video clip URL Another man answers the question, saying that at the turn of the century, Chicago was “like Medellin four years ago.” Another woman is interviewed in Chicago and says she doesn’t know anything about Medellin or Pablo Escobar. Station gets similar responses from several more Chicago pedestrians.

03:15Copy video clip URL A man in eyeglasses provides a real answer, saying that Medellin is one of “the major cities in Colombia,” and says that he’s heard of Pablo Escobar in connection to drug trafficking.

03:40Copy video clip URL As b-roll of Pablo Escobar plays, the same man draws a comparison between Escobar and Capone, saying that both were involved in the importation and distribution of illegal drugs.

04:00Copy video clip URL The film cuts back to the baby from the beginning, and the same woman’s voiceover returns. She says that the parallels between Capone and Escobar are what she sees connecting Medellin and Chicago. She explores how their fortunes were built on illicit activities, and protected by extensive violence.

04:30Copy video clip URL An old newsreel plays, detailing the terrors of the 1920s as bootlegging rose to prominence; these clips are immediately followed by ones from Colombia more recently, showing killings and violence. A Colombia politician rails against the terror of the cartels, and a quote from Matthew 25 is shown; it reads, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” seemingly in reference to the violence of these eras.

05:30Copy video clip URL The filmmaker explores the seeming fascination which Latin American cartels had with Chicago gangs; Pablo Escobar, she says, drove a Pontiac believed to have been owned by Al Capone. Further, she says, there were images of Pablo Escobar dressed as a Prohibition-era gangster.

06:30Copy video clip URL Station’s story now begins to turn personal, as she explains that her husband had only come into contact with Chicago via films before he arrived there. She then explores those films, saying that they all lead to a portrait of this ‘ideal gangster.’ She posits that it’s this image which members of the Medellin cartel were seeking to emulate.

07:30Copy video clip URL Drawing a new parallel, the filmmaker explains that the mass immigration into the U.S. around the turn of the century is similar to the 1960s in Colombia when immigrants moved to the city and flooded those cities with violence left over from the recent civil war.

08:45Copy video clip URL With an old bit of film showing two boys stealing from a department store playing, Station explains that this era was one when children grew up navigating a world of street violence. Another clip shows two young men being given pistols for Christmas. Station explains that “strength and cunning” are the features which will admit somebody to a gang later in life.

09:40Copy video clip URL A Colombian police officer speaks to the camera, explaining a very similar situation to what is being portrayed in the American films; he tells of children who have no choice but to engage in gang activity — otherwise they will starve.

10:15Copy video clip URL Don Jamie, a Colombian, is interviewed, telling of how he lost two sons to gang violence. He says that raising his family in the city is hard — harder than he ever expected.

11:00Copy video clip URL The filmmaker explains that gang members were divided upon racial lines in America — listing out Italians, Irish, and Jewish as several examples — and compares this system to that in Medellin. They both, she says, emphasize the importance of family and religion.

11:45Copy video clip URL Professor Douglas Bukowski of the University of Illinois at Chicago begins speaking, saying that Al Capone’s appearance was not something that happened all of a sudden; he says that it was simply one part of the larger scene of gang activity during that time. Capone’s innovation, Bukowski says, was turning the mafia into a corporation.

13:00Copy video clip URL The filmmaker begins to explore how the violence between gangs — both in Chicago and Medellin — made life in these cities very difficult.

13:50Copy video clip URL Finally, the filmmaker explains how it was the same forces that brought Capone and Escobar to such stratospheric heights which brought them crashing right back down.

15:30Copy video clip URL Video from Pablo Escobar’s gravestone is shown, and his mother, Dona Hermilda, speaks about her son. She explains how sweet and kind he was.

16:00Copy video clip URL The gravestone of Alphonse Capone is shown. Thomas, the baby shown throughout, is given a bath from a tap at the graveyard, and the main film ends. A title card reads “This program was produced in cooperation with and with the support of the Fund For Innovative TV.” Another reads: “And was partially supported by a grant from The Illinois Arts Council.” Several more title cards follow, thanking various contributors from the Chicago and Medellin parts of the film.

17:00Copy video clip URL The filmmaker concludes the film with a shot of “Capone’s Chicago,” an establishment in Chicago, saying “I wonder if someday someone will dare to build an Escobar’s in Medellin.” The film cuts to black.

18:17Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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