In Production

The U.K.'s Essential Television follows anti-drug police into the Amazon for The Cocaine Triangle, and learns about indigenous cultural practices in A Tribal Odyssey.
March 21, 2001

Deep inside the Amazon rainforest, the trail of white powder leads to the ‘cocaine triangle’ – an area between the borders of Brazil, Peru and Colombia. There, South American drug barons are busy producing the highly addictive stimulant to ship to far-flung destinations, while anti-drug police are desperately trying to stop them.

In The Cocaine Triangle, the U.K.’s Essential Television follows an anti-drug squad as it attempts to carry out its mission: destroying the laboratories and airstrips used to produce and distribute the drug. Budgeted at around US$250,000, the one-hour special includes high-speed boat chases, military-style explosions, false leads and unexpected discoveries.

In A Tribal Odyssey, Essential Television moves from the underworld and drug culture to the developing world and indigenous cultures. For months, producers negotiated with government officials, local organizations and medical experts to gain access to these remotely situated groups, and were ultimately successful. Over the course of the 4 x1-hour series, they follow: the Simatulu tribe of Siberut (an Indonesian island) as members attempt to solve an urgent housing problem; the Surma of Ethiopia who settle a dispute with a ritual stick fight; and tree people in Cambodia’s forests who conduct a burial ceremony delayed for 20 years by civil war.

Despite the cultural differences between the tribes and the Western world, producer Richard Waxman has said he was most struck by the universal similarities. ‘The issues concerning births, deaths, marriages and survival, conflicts between parents and teenagers, legal and family disputes are the same whether you are a Surma stick fighter or a London stock broker.’

Budgeted at US$1.2 million, the series received funding from Discovery Channel in the U.S. and German investment company Videal.

A Tribal Odyssey and The Cocaine Triangle will both wrap in time for MIPDOC and MIPTV. London-based Chatsworth Television Distributors is handling the distribution of both programs.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.