It sounds almost hackneyed to say that fact is stranger than fiction, but that’s just how it works out on so many occasions. That said, when reality goes off the rails and crashes out, veering down almost unimaginable paths, then all you need is a good script and some well-constructed characters to narrate and fictionalize an almost implausible, but entirely true story. Like the case of the feat several Galician and Colombian narcos set out to perpetrate in November 2019 to transport three tons of cocaine 6,000 kilometers across the Atlantic Ocean inside a homemade, artisanal, and semi-submersible vessel on a perilous journey from the depths of the Brazilian jungle to the sandy shores of the Costa da Morte, Spain, in what could have been their coffin.
Operación Marea Negra, literally translated for Operation Oil Slick, directed by Daniel Calparsoro for Amazon Exclusive, is a new narco-inspired story right up the street content platforms love, only with the added bonus that, in this case, it’s based on real events which actually took place, many of which, in addition, agents from the Pontevedra headquarters of the Civil Guard played a key role in reliably recreating, as they were theoretically, unbelievable. Herein lies the strength of this story. The harsh reality of those who live on both sides of the Atlantic at the expense of this white gold and all the personal and family suffering cocaine generates around them, for consumers and traffickers alike.
Nando (Álex González) is a young amateur boxer from Vigo who, lured by that carrot we refer to as ‘easy money’, ends up getting dragged into a dangerous web of drug traffickers and hitmen with networks based in Galicia, Portugal, Colombia and Brazil. The attraction of cocaine, with all the succulent economic premiums for those who transport it by sea, culminates in the apocalyptic shipwreck he embarks upon, sailing against hell and high water, ignoring all the warnings, and into which he also drags the few good friends he has.
The real miracle here is that this narco-submarine manages to complete the voyage, with Nando at the controls, enticed by the €700,000 reward he hopes to use to pay off his debts and put a duplicitous full stop to his criminal career, and I say duplicitous full stop because there’s no way out once you get caught up in drug trafficking… with the only end being left to agonizingly perish in its web before you can ever escape. Cramped into a tiny stinking space inside the semi-submersible, Nando and his two crewmates spent a month at sea fighting currents and surviving storms, breakdowns, hunger, nightmares, fights and constant police harassment from the DEA, the Civil Guard and the Portuguese police.
The series premieres in Spain, Portugal and Brazil on February 25 and features a cast of Spanish actors including Nerea Barros (Marshland), Nuno Lopes (White Lines), Miquel Insua (La Unidad), Luis Zahera (The Candidate), Xosé Barato (Alba), Carles Francino (Cable Girls), Manuel Manquiña (Antes de la quema), Lúcia Moniz (Love Actually), Luís Esparteiro (Super Pai), David Trejos (Stolen Away), Leandro Firmino (City of God) and Bruno Gagliasso (Marighella).
Each of the four episodes comprising Operación Marea Negra lasts 50 minutes, produced by Ficción Producciones, better known for series such as Unauthorized Living, with Mamen Quintas and Julio Casal as executive producers. Several regional television networks participated in the production, including CCMA, CRTVG, SAMC, EITB MEDIA, TVPC, RTPA and IB3, led by TVG de Galicia.
The series also had the support of Portugal’s RTP through Ukbar Filmes with Pandora da Cunha Telles and Pablo Iraola as co-producers in association with AGADIC and PIC Portugal.
But, if you really want to make the leap from fiction to harsh reality, then don’t miss the final minutes of the show when we get to see what those Civil Guard agents witnessed with their own eyes when they intercepted the submersible. It’s enough to give you chills just thinking about what that month-long journey in what was no more than a tin submarine must have been like.
To top it off, Prime Video have announced that they will also premiere the documentary series Operación Marea Negra: La travesía suicida on March 11, which delves into the true story of the 26-day Atlantic crossing of the actual narco-submarine manned by Agustín Álvarez, former amateur Spanish boxing hopeful and proof that facts are always stranger than fiction.