Directed by: Alastair Reid | 315 minutes | drama, crime | Actors: Bill Paterson, Lindsay Duncan, Jamal Shah, Talat Hussain, Fritz Müller-Scherz, Vincenzo Benestante, Bernard Adena, Bakhtiar Ahmad, Basharat Ahmad, Aftab Alam, Shah Murad Aliani, Qasim Ali, Mumtaz Ali Shah, Shirley Allmond, Khalid Anam Malik Anokha, Linda Bassett, Michael Bertenshaw, Peter Bourke, Sharon Bower, Charu Bala Chokshi, Jonathan Docker-Drysdale, Shabaz Durrani, Mohammed Qasim Fani, Karl-Friedrich Gerster, Shelley Goldfarb, Knut Hinz, Ismat Shah Jahan, Latif Kapadia, Rahat Kazmi, Sanjaf Khadim, Akhtar Ali Khan, Dilshad Khan, Ghasan Sattar Khan, Iman Sattar Khan, Maseen Sattar Khan, Roedad Khan, Salma Akran Khan, Sarwar Khan, Jalal Khattak, George Kukura, Peter Lakenmacher, Aslam Later, Judy Lloyd, Tony Mathews, Annette Mayer, David McAllister, Philip Middlemiss, Nazar Mohammed, Ejaz Ahmed Niazi, Julia Ormond, Regina Pressler, Tilo Prückner, Abu Rahi, Tariq Rahim, Raahi Raza, Roohi Raza, Behroze Sabzwari, Peter Schuchmann, Mukthar Ahmed Sethi, Salma Shaheen, Feryal Gac uhar Shah, Shakeel, Saquib Sheikh, Syed Sadiq Shirazi, Peter Snow, Ian Stewart, Zia Ul Qamar, Ronan Vibert, Karl-Heinz von Hassel, Sven Walser, Douglas Welbat, Yaqoob Zakaria
The miniseries ‘Traffik’ shows three stories, all of which have to do with the drug trade. You alternately see the hard life of a former farm worker in Pakistan, the turbulent life of an English minister who fights drugs and a cat-and-mouse game between the Hamburg police and a suspicious business family. In documentary style, you get to know the few winners and the many losers in the game for drugs, money and power. At over three hours, ‘Traffik’ is a series of episodes worth watching.
‘Traffik’ is all about content. Other things, such as camera and acting, are of secondary importance to the message. You soon have the idea that you are looking at an intriguing story. The fortunes of Pakistani farmer Fazal (Jamal Shah) and the messy private life of the English minister (Paterson) are particularly interesting. The storyline about the German police is of a lower level. The miniseries shines a light on the international drug trade. In Pakistan (and Afghanistan), many poor slobs are forced to work in the dangerous trade and a handful of people actually benefit. The character development of farm worker Fazal is well developed. Fazal is ousted by the government and, disappointed as he is, thinks he will soon make a career in the heroin trade. The higher he climbs the ladder of the Pakistani drug network, the more he comes into conflict with his norms and values. Shah’s prosperous career is not always believable, but he is certainly an interesting actor, who radiates peace and tranquility.
The fortunes of Secretary Paterson are equally captivating, but only come to fruition later in the episodes. In the beginning, Paterson spends too long playing the tough kid who single-handedly lets his addicted daughter kick the habit. Many disappointments and confrontations with reality later, Paterson turns out to be a very warm man, who discovers what life is really about. Admittedly, the story about the minister is more moralistic in tone than the other two stories, but also more intense because of the explosive and realistic relationship between father and daughter.
The third story is a game between the police in Hamburg and a woman who continues her husband’s dirty business for reasons of profit. The German story is messy, because it’s set up too pretentious. There are too many events, coincidences and characters, so what is shown never really grabs you. Most interesting are the inner motivations of the two detectives, who risk their lives to keep the drugs out of the city. A fatal event ultimately has major consequences for the standards and values of one of the agents, who then tries like a blind horse to unmask the drug dealers.
For ‘Traffik’ you have to take the time: in the end it is valuable to delve into the protagonists of the drug game. Some of the many actors are low-level, but most of the main characters of the three separate stories make up for the shortcomings for the most part. ‘Traffik’ confronts you with the brutal drug world and the disastrous consequences for rich and poor, without adding a layer of glamour.