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
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.