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Rock formation (Arbol de Piedra) in Uyuni, Bolivia
Rock formation (Arbol de Piedra) in Uyuni, Bolivia | © Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock
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The Best Documentaries to Watch Before Travelling to Bolivia

Picture of Harry Stewart
Updated: 1 May 2018
Keen to learn a little more about Bolivia before you visit? Thankfully, a bunch of insightful documentaries have been made about this little-known South American nation, covering everything from politics, to poverty, and outlaws on the run. Here are some of our faves.

Our Brand is Crisis

Americans have long been accused of meddling in other nation’s affairs, and Bolivia is no exception. This insightful feature-length documentary showcases the political campaign of a renowned U.S. image consultant who backed unpopular Bolivian presidential candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, A.K.A Gringo Goni, to victory against the anti-imperialist Evo Morales in 2002. Above all else, the film provides a somber insight into the unscrupulous world of political campaigning.

The Bolivian Case

Bolivian/Australian director Violeta Ayala covers the sensational story of a trio of Norwegian women who were imprisoned in Cochabamba on drug smuggling charges. Featuring a Hollywood-style escape, a love affair resulting in pregnancy behind bars, and highly questionable media coverage that borders on racism, Ayala concludes the film with the question, “Perhaps it is the media that needs to be put on trial?”

Cocaine Prison

The latest work from Violeta Ayala, Cocaine Prison examines the drug trade from the perspective of its lowest workers; a captured drug mule and his impoverished sister. The filmmaker was granted rare permission to shoot inside San Pedro Jail in La Paz, a notorious prison made infamous by Rusty Young’s novel Marching Powder.

The Devil’s Miner

A must for any traveler heading to Potosi, The Devil’s Miner details the abhorrent working conditions found inside Bolivia’s most notorious mine. The documentary follows two teenage brothers who must work long hours to provide for their families, a harsh reality that confronts many today. Of particular interest is the custom to worship El Tio, a devil-like effigy said to keep the miners safe while underground.

Cocalero

An important film on Bolivia’s recent history, this vérité-style documentary uses staged reenactments combined with raw footage to tell the story of Evo Morales’ transformation from coca farmer to the country’s most powerful man. Love him or hate him, the film gives important background on one of Bolivia’s most influential presidents.

Bolivia – The Last Trail of Butch and Sundance

Fans of the famous outlaw duo will love this documentary which follows in the footsteps of their last days and chronicles how they ended up on the run in Bolivia in the first place. Part travelogue, part historical documentary, the film provides insight into both the country itself and the infamous gunslinging outlaws.

Salero

Set in Bolivia’s breathtaking Salar de Uyuni, this nonfiction feature film follows the story of the last traditional salt workers in the region. Lithium exploitation is set to change the salar forever, with high-tech extraction and new infrastructure investment in the works. Uncertain on how to adapt to change, the workers must reconcile their cultural identity with inevitable technological progress.