Written & Directed by Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
One of the major appeals of sports is its ability to be so gripping and compelling. With time on the clock and victory on the line, some of the most stressful and faux-important moments occur on the playing field, so what better topic for a series of documentaries?! ESPN turns 30 years old and commissions 30 different documentaries to be made about various stories relating to sports. The Two Escobars, realized by the Zimbalist brothers, is just one of those 30 films and if it is any indication of the quality of the series, then ESPN should be given an award of some kind, in recognition of their addition to the world of documentary film.
Pablo Escobar may be known to some, as he was the largest drug lord in Colombia for some time. Andres Escobar may seem more obscure. Andres was the captain of the Colombian national time at the same time Pablo was essentially running the soccer world, in addition to the drug world, in Colombia. By pouring money into soccer, Pablo was able to legalize much of his dirty money (money laundering). This surge in money into soccer also brought great success by allowing the country to bring in top coaches and to keep their best players, one of which was Andres Escobar. Andres was uneasy about the whole situation. While other players took it as a chance to spotlight their talent and becomes friends with one of the most powerful men in the country, arguably the world, Andres was always on the outside looking in, not wanting to associate with such a criminal. When Colombia skyrocketed to become the dark horse pick to win the World Cup in 1994, Andres came to discover just how much soccer meant to the country of Colombia and its drug lords.
This story is so remarkable I am not sure any director or team of directors could have messed it up, but what the Zimbalist brothers do here is brilliant. They weave the stories of these two remarkable men together along with the success of soccer in the country so seamlessly and effortlessly that it almost appears the story has that natural progression, but nothing less than hard work and great creativity could have brought such a stellar documentary. I have always felt that the story of a documentary was very important to my overall enjoyment of it, but it also remains that there needs to be great storytelling. What do I care about Colombian soccer and drug lords from the 80s? Well, I guess a lot because the Zimbalist’s made me care.
Sport is extremely compelling, but so too is the life of the common man, and Andres and Pablo, despite both being quite notable, if not in the world, at least in Colombia, are both common men just like you and me. Place yourself in their shoes. Give yourself the chance to make the moral decisions they had to make, to encounter the impossible situations they had to encounter. That is what makes great film, placing the audience on the shoulder of giants and letting them experience what it is like to live a life a little big larger than their own. But at the end of the day, these giants face the same day to day ups and downs as everybody else, perhaps just more pronounced. Sport is just an arena to live out life. That arena, in this case, is much more violent and volatile than yours though.