The 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys put Miami filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman (and their company, Rakontur) on the international map. The movie was a favorite on the festival circuit, as well as with audiences who usually wouldn’t come near a “documentary,” per se.
This was largely due to its sexy/violent subject matter; the film traced the rise of the cocaine trade in Miami during the ’70s and ’80s. It was like Scarface come to life, with zippy editing, period-appropriate (slightly cheesy-on-purpose) graphics, and a Jan Hammer soundtrack that kept things moving.
In the wake of its success, Rakontur has so far continued its dedication to telling real Miami stories. Recently, that included The U, about the University of Miami’s troubled but famous football program, which aired nationally on ESPN.
What has everyone most excited now though is its latest full-length film, Square Grouper. Again, it examines the drug trade in and around Miami, but this time it’s the earlier, more easy-going, pre-coke marijuana era. Like Cocaine Cowboys, it takes a wider-sweeping, almost sociological view of the surrounding societal conditions.
This one, for instance, begins with a focus on the Ethiopian Zion Coptic church, an old fringe Miami group that blended hippie-ish Rasta practices with rather hardcore Christianity. They smoked weed but also sold it, and the examination thereof leads to the chain of events that propels the rest of the documentary.
Vintage footage and modern-day interviews, just as with Cocaine Cowboys, round everything out for another entertaining, balanced creation that’s fast becoming another favorite. Square Grouper is currently making the college and festival circuit, and current screening dates can be found at squaregroupermovie.com.