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Cardona’s life story begins in Colombia and ends on the streets – and in the High Schools and rehab projects -- of New York. Twenty years ago, he was one of South America’s most notorious drug barons, working alongside and competing against the likes of Pablo Escobar and Griselda Blanco. Now, he’s prepared to tell it all: holding nothing back, this is an autobiography with its roots in violence, crime and amorality. Every documentary film needs a compelling central character, a ‘star’, and ‘Jota’ brings exactly that compelling force of personality to bear in ‘Rescued From Hell’.


Thomas Salme, Producer and Director "Rescued from Hell" ;


The first time I met Javier Cardona -- alias ‘Jota’ -- in Miami two years ago, I was stunned. The man and the story he had to tell took my breath away. I knew at once that this was a drama, a compelling slice of history, that deserved to leave its mark with the widest possible audience.


I started to film with Cardona two years ago, living in his apartment in Miami for several months and then traveling to Medellin, formerly Colombia’s drug and crime capital, and New York. I have been backwards and forwards over an appalling but, ultimately, uplifting adventure ever since, visiting the places the story unfolded and filming with the cast of characters that for so long were part of this man’s extraordinary life.


Cardona was a drug dealer at the age of fourteen who would go on to spend 18 years behind bars in a federal prison in the US. His route to the top in the drug trade took him into the very darkest corners of the human spirit. Cardona witnessed – and perpetrated – some truly dreadful things. Nothing is left untold or romanticised here.


But the tales of a former drug baron are only the start: this is also a tale of self-discovery and transformation. I film alongside ‘Jota’ today and capture a man who’s served his time and turned his life around. He looks young people in the eye and counsels those who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps, using his own life story as the most powerful of cautionary tales.


‘Rescued From Hell’ isn’t the story of a life darkened by drug use. It takes us inside the mind, lifestyle and methods of a man who made himself rich on the back of selling other people into the misery of addiction. ‘Jota’ is probably the highest profile graduate of the Medellin Cartel of the 80s

still free and alive to tell the tale. The underworld has placed a price on Cardona’s head but, such is the strength and clarity of his commitment to a new life, nothing will stop him working now against the drugs empires he was once at the very heart of.


I have emails from New York City’s Justice Department and from the DEA in Washington, both welcoming and backing the making of ‘Rescued From Hell’. And, of course, to back up Jota’s story, all the court documents from his criminal trials are in my hands. However dark a man’s past, it seems, it’s never too late to transform his ultimate destiny. ‘Rescued From Hell’, the story of Javier Cardona, is living and dramatic documentary proof of that.



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