Breaking the Taboo

Breaking the Taboo is a 2011 Brazilian documentary film about the War on Drugs. The film recounts the history of the war on drugs, beginning with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Breaking the Taboo explores the conclusion reached by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in 2011 that drug liberalization is the best approach in dealing with drug policy.

Breaking The Taboo
Breaking the Taboo (film).jpg
Directed byCosmo Feilding Mellen
Fernando Grostein Andrade
Written byFernando Grostein Andrade
Thomaz Souto Correa
Cosmo Feilding-Mellen
Carolina Kotscho
Ricardo Setti
Ilona Szabo
Produced bySam Branson
StarringFernando Henrique Cardoso
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton
Paulo Coelho
Ruth Dreifuss
Gro Harlem Brundtland
Anthony Papa
Dráuzio Varella
Robert Gallimore
Narrated byMorgan Freeman (English)
Gael García Bernal (Spanish)
CinematographyFernando Grostein Andrade
Rafael Levy
Edited byLeticia Giffoni
Jair Peres
Tony Wilson
Music byLucas Lima
Sundog Pictures
Spray Filmes
Distributed byEspaço Filmes (2011)
TVF International (2012)
Release date
  • June 3, 2011 (2011-06-03)
Running time
58 minutes
LanguagesEnglish, Spanish, Portuguese, French


The documentary features interviews with a number of former heads of state, including U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and leaders from Colombia, Switzerland, Norway and Mexico. Filmed in 18 cities around the world, Breaking the Taboo has interviews with 168 subjects, including police, inmates, former soldier and now Somerset-based history teacher Robert Gallimore and rehabilitated addicts. The film contains scenery from around the world varying from FARC coca plantations in the Colombian jungle, to Amsterdam coffeeshops, to Afghanistan and the bloated U.S. prison system. Drug law reform activist Anthony Papa is quoted in the film saying that, "If you can't control drug use in a maximum security prison, how can you control drug use in a free society?"[1]

Breaking the Taboo was first released in Brazil in 2011 as Quebrando o Tabu.[2] The documentary was adapted for the American and European market in partnership with the production house Current Sponge, led by Sam Branson, son of the entrepreneur Richard Branson.[3] The English version was released on December 7, 2012 via YouTube for a one-month online run and is no longer available.[4][5] An addendum to the end of the film notes the passage of laws legalizing cannabis in the US states of Washington and Colorado.


Following its release in 2011, the film stimulated debate in Brazilian media, schools and the Brazilian congress, with a speech by senator Eduardo Suplicy. Veja magazine published a nine-page article on the film calling it "a meticulously crafted report made over two years with 168 interviews from personalities, including Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Drauzio Varella, and Gael García Bernal, and others less known, but no less credible."[6] The television show Fantástico of Rede Globo, Brazil's largest TV network, aired an eight-minute report on the film and later polled the viewers on the subject, 57% voted in favor of legalization.[7] Trip magazine published a cover story on the film.[8] The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo considered that the film had "A consistent argumentative route, not necessarily aligned with common sense".[9] The film also had repercussions in the English newspaper The Guardian: "The documentary highlights the perils of debating an issue so clouded by ideology and calls for an end to the stigmatization of the debate. It boasts the support of several former world leaders including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter."[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Papa, Anthony (June 16, 2011). "40 Years of the Drug War: Breaking the Taboo". Counterpunch.
  2. ^ Kachani, Morris (29 May 2011). "Jovem diretor defende descriminalização de drogas em documentário". Folha de S.Paulo.
  3. ^ Cabral, Otávio (5 December 2011). "Coluna-Holofote". Revista Veja. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012.
  4. ^ url= Archived 2013-06-18 at
  5. ^ Branson, Richard (January 4, 2013). "Last chance to see Breaking The Taboo". Richard's Blog. Archived from the original on July 15, 2015.
  6. ^ Cabral, Otávio (8 June 2011). "A Utopia de Desfazer o Nó". Veja.
  7. ^ FHC defende regulamentação da maconha, Fantástico. 29 May 2011.
  8. ^ Torturra, Bruno (3 July 2011). "Fernando Henrique Cardoso". Trip.
  9. ^ Mena, Fernanda (29 May 2011). "Crítica". Folha de S.Paulo. Archived from the original on 3 December 2012.
  10. ^ Herbert, Sian (26 May 2011). "Brazil's marijuana march for freedom". The Guardian.

External linksEdit