FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Straight from the Cannes Film Festival, brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist return to their hometown to debut their acclaimed film The Two Escobars at the Academy of Music.
The pair will introduce their latest documentary at 7:30 p.m. June 20, and answer audience questions following its showing at the historic downtown theatre. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or on site at the theatre box office. Advance purchase is recommended.
Mobilizing an encyclopedic arsenal of archival footage and intimate interviews with members of Colombia’s political and criminal establishments, Jeff and Michael’s Zimbalist’s The Two Escobars paints a portrait of a culture so invested in and defined by its sports team that one high-stakes mistake on the field could shatter its national identity, and ultimately cost a man his life.
The 100-minute film tells the story of two men who shared a fanatical love of soccer, Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar. Andrés grew up to become one of Colombia’s most beloved players, while Pablo rose through the ranks of the criminal underground to become not only the most notorious drug baron of all time, but also the secret weapon behind Colombian soccer’s unprecedented rise to glory. As Pablo’s criminal success accelerated, his personal interest in – and financial support of – soccer gave rise to the phenomenon known in the underworld as “Narco-soccer”, as well as a broader cultural fervor among the Colombian population. In a time when rival drug cartels warred in the streets and the country’s murder rate climbed to highest in the world, the Colombian National Soccer Team’s success was blazing a new image for their country, but ultimately came to a head when Andrés’ shocking mistake in the 1994 World Cup lost his team the title, and lost his nation the chance to redeem its international image.
Widely praised for its “daring storytelling,” “eclectic score” and “seamless editing,” the Associated Press called the film nothing less than “a triumph.” Few movies have better documented both the good and bad of sports, according to the review.
Jeff and Michael’s production company, All Rise Films, is a Ford Foundation grantee and has produced award-winning documentaries on third world development issues for clients such as HBO, the Sundance Channel, PBS, BET, the BBC, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the John Templeton Foundation. The brothers are currently developing a feature documentary on the working poor being produced by Stan Lathaan and Russell Simmons, THE SCRIBE OF URABÁ, a narrative feature Jeff and Michael wrote and will direct about the true story of the first Colombian Peace Community, starring Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (Doubt) and Goya Award winner Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), and a feature film adaptation of THE TWO ESCOBARS, produced by ESPN Films.
When Jeff brought his first film, “Favela Rising,” back to Northampton, a hometown audience packed the Academy of Music for two sold-out screenings. The film went on to win over 35 international awards, including Best Director at Tribeca Film Festival, Film of the Year by the International Documentary Association, it was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary and was nominated for an Emmy award.
“Our films tend to focus on disenfranchised communities in the process of rising up and transforming their political and economic circumstances,” the brothers write of their work together. “We choose these stories due to the scale of their historic importance—this is where societies are shaped.”
As Lauren Wissot noted in her review in Slant magazine, “what’s most thrilling about Two Escobars is the filmmakers’ nonjudgmental approach, which avoids anti-drug moralizing or the easy slamming of our own wasteful, Reagan-era war on drugs. At the same time the Zimbalists don’t shy away from the bloody reality that even as the national team climbed to greatness, Colombia had the highest murder rate in the world.”
Jeff and Michael credit their father, a Smith College academic expert on Latin America and sports, with instilling in them a passion for the region and the game, and their mother, a successful Northampton artist, with the creative genes.
“My mom is an artist and my dad is a Latinamericanist, so if you put the two together, it makes sense you get two sons who are filmmakers focused on Latin American themes,” Jeff once told the non-profit organization AMIGOS.
Both Jeff and Michael graduated from Northampton High School. Jeff went on to earn a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Brown University with honors in Art Semiotics and Modern Culture and Media, and a concentration in Latin American Studies, while Michael graduated with honors from Wesleyan University and trained as an actor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The mission of the Academy of Music is to enrich greater Northampton’s quality of life by offering first class performing arts and film presentations in a historic theater of national significance, and encouraging the use of the venue for social, educational, and professional events; the Academy of music seeks a broad and diverse audience through its programming and outreach efforts.