Can be seen from 9/11 on NPO 3 and NPO Plus
Santos, recently awarded a Golden Calf at the Dutch Film Festival as the best television drama of 2023, has much more to offer about issues such as precarious family relationships, dangerous friendships and complicated love affairs than an average drug drama with a Romeo and Juliet-like theme.
The series is mainly driven by Glenn (Yannick Jozefzoon), a boy of Surinamese descent who works in a Rotterdam restaurant with one Michelin star. His co-star is Yola (Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, best known from the film adaptation of How expensive was the sugar from 2013) who works at a company that protects the environment and fights against European multinationals that illegally dump waste in Africa. Both try to keep themselves aloof from their immediate environment, which is anchored in the drug trade.
That’s not easy. Yola’s mother, played by Romana Vrede, tries to guide her into the dubious family business, but the daughter goes her own way. The challenge for the young lovers is to survive without being dependent on the drug environment around them.
This approach is Santos, the title refers to Yola’s family name, not a stigmatizing series. But the temptations to make quick money from drug trafficking are lurking. For example, Glenn feels almost obliged by an old friend who is struggling with debts to engage in questionable practices.
Santos was written by, among others, the screenwriters of acclaimed series such as Penoza and Mocro Mafia. Yet the series tells a broader story, in which social themes also shine through. There is also a nod to a classic like The Godfatherwhich mixes a baptism scene in a church with a violent incident in a drug lab.
In Santos a mixed group of characters is introduced. Most interpreters are of Surinamese descent and have little experience with acting in front of the camera. Some dialogues are sometimes difficult to follow due to slang. The series will therefore be subtitled. Many young debutants, especially from the music world (including Vic9), make an important contribution to the series.
White actors in supporting roles
Reputable white actors mainly appear in supporting roles. For example, Jack Wouterse plays the owner of the restaurant where Glenn works at the beginning of the series. He tries to keep his new employees in line as much as possible.
Gradually you get Santos increasingly a female perspective. The developments that Yola goes through largely determine the developments in the final episodes. She remains true to her ideals, while Glenn has to make a lot of effort to hold on.
The Santos family motto is incorporated into the opening scene, in which Yola, as a little girl in a forest in Suriname, is given a sten gun to fire. Her mother gives her a life lesson: ‘never underestimate your opponent’ and ‘never slacken’. Those words neatly sum up the series.