Pablo Escobar, who led Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel, was once the world's most wanted man. At the height of his power in the 1980s, he killed politicians and policemen and ordered an airliner blown out of the sky. With U.S. help, the Colombian police finally hunted him down.
Sixteen years after Escobar's death, the families of his victims haven't forgotten about him. And neither has Escobar's only son, whose story is told in a new documentary film that opens Dec. 10 in Colombia and then in January at the Sundance Film Festival.
The son, who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, says that he wants to atone for the sins of his father.
Sebastian Marroquin is 32, portly, with a shock of curly hair. He looks a lot like his father, Escobar, whom Forbes magazine once called the world's seventh-richest man.
Escobar is also the man remembered in Colombia as the personification of evil and who, in the documentary Sins of My Father, rants and makes frequent threats; in one instance, pledging to unleash a war on Colombia's elite. Among those he ordered assassinated was popular presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, in 1989.
These are the memories Marroquin has lived with since changing his name from Juan Pablo Escobar and fleeing Colombia in 1994.
"Had I followed my father's footsteps," Marroquin says, "I would have repeated the same history."
Marroquin runs a small, successful architectural firm. He is married to a woman he has known since childhood. Few people know who he really is, and he rarely shares his secret.
Nicolas Entel, the Argentine documentary filmmaker who produced and directed Sins of My Father, says Marroquin's life in Argentina is actually "pretty boring."
"He is really average, which in his case, I found that as an enormous accomplishment," Entel says in a telephone interview from New York.
Entel approached Marroquin with an idea — a film not about Pablo Escobar, but about the kingpin's son and the sons of two of Escobar's most prominent victims. The objective was to get them all together, a symbolic reconciliation that would send a message to a country all too familiar with how hatred and endless vendettas only lead to more violence.
Entel said the catalyst would be Marroquin.
"He had not yet exorcised those ghosts. He still needed one more step in order to be able to, I think, live the rest of his life," Entel says.
The Escobar that Marroquin knows, he says, was a very special father — for example, singing parts of the opera Rigoletto for his family.
It's the Escobar his family still recalls. Still, Marroquin says, it is difficult to reconcile the doting father with the murderous thug remembered by Colombians.
In fact, Marroquin says, he can't forget about his father's victims. And that made him want to do more — to meet the young men who lost their fathers to Escobar's henchmen. Entel's film provided him with the opportunity.
In the documentary, Marroquin is filmed writing a letter that went to the three sons of the presidential candidate, Galan, and to the oldest son of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who was murdered in 1984.
The letter asks how to make amends for so much violence; it struck a chord.
Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, the former minister's son, says of the letter: "It was an act of humanity ... and we thought we had to respond with another act of humanity."
He and the Galans decided to receive Marroquin in Colombia last year. Marroquin broke the tension by apologizing for his father's murderous spree.
Lara saw it as an important act of peace.
"And after I met him and I gave him a hug, I thought to myself that I was a better person, because I was able to pardon," Lara says.
Lara said it also made him think beyond his own pain to the unsettled acrimony among his countrymen.
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