A new feature documentary has secured exclusive access to the story of Peter McAleese, the Scottish mercenary and ex-SAS operative who was hired by a Colombian drug cartel to assassinate drug baron Pablo Escobar.
Produced by Glasgow-based Two Rivers Media and Salon Pictures, the producers of David Bowie film “Stardust,” “Killing Escobar” is told in McAleese’s own words and features never-before-seen footage of his 1989 Colombian mission. The doc also reveals how McAleese’s violent upbringing in Glasgow, SAS training and experience as a mercenary in Africa led him to take on the daring — and seemingly suicidal — assignment.
Commissioned by BBC Scotland, the film is backed by fledgling distributor Abacus Media Rights, who hold international distribution rights, as well as The National Lottery through Screen Scotland. Directed by award-winning filmmaker David Whitney, the film will bow at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 7 and air on BBC Scotland later this year.
Mick McAvoy, head of factual at Two Rivers Media, said: “At Two Rivers Media, we pride ourselves on bringing remarkable stories, told by the people who were at the centre of the action, to the screen. This film tells the unlikely tale of how a man from the East End of Glasgow was asked to bring together a team of ex-special forces operatives to travel to the very heart of the criminal empire of the world’s most dangerous man in order to assassinate him.”
McAvoy notes that the film does not use any voiceover and relies on intimate interviews with McAleese, members of his team and Escobar’s bodyguard. The 90-minute film also contains archive from McAleese’s life, as well as interviews with other key participants in the story, such as: fellow mercenary Dave Tomkins; DEA officers Javier Pena and Steve Murphy (the subjects of Netflix’s hit series “Narcos”); and McAleese’s Cali Cartel liaison Jorge Salcedo, whose experiences in Colombia also inspired the Netflix series.
Nick Taussig, founder and managing director for Salon Pictures, added: “When [director David Whitney] first brought this film to us, we were determined to make it, as, beyond the compelling narrative of a small band of mercenaries trying to take down Pablo Escobar, was the great human story of an old soldier’s final reckoning with himself. David had the track record and pedigree to take this story on, and what a creative tour de force it has turned out to be.”
Whitney highlights a “wealth” of personal video archive and a high level of access that was “the stuff of dreams for any filmmaker.”
“When my editor and I sat and watched the footage that the men had filmed of their mission we were amazed by the breadth and quality; it was a goldmine!” said Whitney. “It’s been a long, difficult journey to get ‘Killing Escobar’ to the screen, but I hope audiences will be as thrilled by this incredible true story as I was.”
Tony Nellany commissioned the film for BBC Scotland. Director of photography is Julian Schwanitz, while head of production is Lucy Austen; head of legal is Ross Cowan; and location AP is Kelly Machin. Executive producers include Alan Clements and Mick McAvoy for Two Rivers Media — for whom the film marks the outfit’s first theatrical foray — as well as Nick Taussig for Salon Pictures. “Killing Escobar” is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights.