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Pepe at the Berlin Film Festival, dubbed “a decolonial philosopher”

According to the director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias of Dominica, the story of Pepe, a hippopotamus from Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private zoo, served as inspiration for his film about the effects of colonialism.

After Escobar’s death in 1993, the hippo, one of several wild animals housed on his private estate, fled into the neighboring countryside and thrived there for many years.

“I was interested in all the symbolism and everything that emanates from that story‚Ķ and it made me think about displacement,” said the filmmaker.

The Berlin Film Festival premiere “Pepe” narrates the tale from the hippo’s point of view, giving the animal other languages to speak. It envisions Pepe’s youth in Afrikaans speaking Namibia.

The director remarked, “Pepe is almost a decolonial philosopher,” pointing out that the movie starts in the apartheid era. Regarding his circumstances, he called Pepe’s monologue “a kind of poetry”.

Pepe has lived all of this time on other people’s terms: entertaining German tourists in Namibia, organizing

Escobar’s thuggery, his role as the imaginary monster of the Colombian villagers, and his ultimate transformation into a prize for a German hunter dispatched to kill an invading species.

Depending on the language he is speaking, a variety of actors give Pepe’s reflections a guttural tone.

“I saw an ad in which they were looking for the voice of a hippopotamus and I said, right away, ‘that’s me!’,”

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