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Net Picks Up Series Based on Legalizing Drugs

5/28/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Cinelatino, the 24/7 commercial-free movie
channel, is about to do something in this country that
Mexican public television didn’t dare to do: It will premiere
Estado de Gracia (State of Grace), a controversial
series that revolves around the illegal drug trade and features
a main character who bluntly proposes the legalization
of drugs as the only way out of a vicious circle of
violence.

The 13-episode series, which makes its world premiere
on Cinelatino on June 4 (11 p.m.), was originally commissioned
by Mexico’s Once TV in 2009 as part of a new, provocative
programming slate for the channel, as it was
being redesigned to reach younger audiences.

Barely months after announcing the series with great
fanfare, Once TV got cold feet, and in an interview with a
local newspaper at the end of 2011, the network’s director
defended its decision to can the series — at least until after
Mexico’s 2012 presidential election.

Estado de Gracia is one of the best series we’ve ever produced,”
Once TV director Rafael Lugo told the newspaper
Milenio in October. “Unfortunately, the political environment
doesn’t help for us to air it now.”

The fictional series centers on a local congresswoman
(Karina Gidi) who proposes a law to legalize drugs as the
only way to dismantle the powerful drug cartels. While the
show never mentions any real political parties, congressmen
or even the nation of Mexico by name, it touched a
nerve even before airing for the first time.

“There is no doubt legalization of drugs is a very sensitive
issue in Mexico,” director Carlos Bolado told Multichannel
News
. “And since the government of [current
Mexican president] Felipe Calderón made it a priority to
declare the war on drugs, Once TV didn’t want to be perceived
as pushing a particular agenda, at least not under
the current administration.”

The series, which Mexico’s public-TV channel now vows
to air as soon as this year’s elections are over, was first
pitched to Cinelatino during the 2011 edition of NATPE,
where Jim McNamara,
Cinelatino’s chairman, was
offered a sneak preview by
one distributor and finally
was able to acquire the
series.

“It was a very long process,
but we finally secured
U.S. rights to the
series,” McNamara said.
“We are sure it’s going to be
a hit, especially among our
Mexican audience, which
represents somewhere between
60% to 65% of Cinelatino’s
subscribers.”

To hype the upcoming
premiere, Cinelatino has
embarked on a marketing
campaign combining traditional
and non-traditional
tactics, including a Facebook
campaign launched earlier this month and a series
of “guerrilla marketing” efforts, details of which the company
declined to specify.

“I’m so happy my series will finally see the light of day,”
Bolado said. The Oscar-nominated director this week was
getting ready to premiere Colosio, yet another potentially
controversial film, in Mexican theaters. “This is an important
debate, and I’m glad to have helped put it back on the
table.”

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