Miami, Fla., a city known for its hedonistic lifestyle and its magnetic skyline was not always a city full of citizens and vacationers seeking fun in the sun. But in the late 1970s, Miami experienced an influx of immigrants and drugs that the documentary, “Cocaine Cowboys” argues made Miami the city that it is today.
Director Billy Corben and producer Alfred Spellman, creators of the 2001 Sundance sensation “Raw Deal,” appropriately named their production company “rakontur” which is a spin off the word raconteur, meaning one who tells stories with skill.
The skill of storytelling was so engrossing in “Cocaine Cowboys” that the perception that “Scarface” was heavily exaggerated is challenged to the core.
The documentary opens with contrast. A peaceful Miami is shown with people basking under the sun. Scenes of seagulls and the ocean waves harmoniously create a laid back atmosphere which is ripped apart by gunfire and mayhem at a Miami mall.
Footage from news coverage of the scene and the locals reaction to a double-homicide that was just one of the many occurrences delivered by culprits of Miami’s drug war. These culprits were known as the Cocaine Cowboys.
Corben and Spellman narrate this exhilarating and gripping account via Jon Pernell Roberts, “a former drug trafficker and distributor of over $2 billion worth of cocaine,” Mickey Munday, who is described by Roberts as “like MacGyver” “a pilot who smuggled over 10 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States,” and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, a contract assassin who is serving a life sentence in prison.
Along with former reporters, district attorneys, police officers and others who lived and saw the outcomes of the Cocaine Cowboys’ influence on the city of Miami “Cocaine Cowboys” is an eye-opening account of what Miami became because of cocaine.
Detail by detail is included with incredible cinematography and injections of news footage, “Miami Vice” dramatizations and a score from the Miami Vice music composer himself, Jan Hammer.
The story is told through a new perception of how Miami became what it is today, arguing that cocaine built Miami through infiltrating and funding banks, real estate, the automobile industry and the whole economy of Miami.
Although the documentary at times seemed to glorify the drug war that plagued Miami in the 1980s it is thoroughly researched and features stunning accounts from reporters and former police officers who support every claim that Roberts, Munday, Ayala and others give as their take on the Cocaine Cowboys.
Roberts, who seems to reminisce more than look back in regret, gives a step by step report on how he got into the business, how he profited from the business, how the city was affected and how he was eventually caught and imprisoned for his hand in the drug trafficking.
His account, along with the account from others involved in the war, details the drug war’s trail from Colombia to Cuba to Miami and even to other places affected by it in the United States.
Ayala’s on-camera interview was conducted in prison and includes details of his murders and his interactions with Griselda Blanco, who is also widely known as the Black Widow “the queen of cocaine,” and includes his mindset at the time he murdered or was supposed to murder someone.
Ayala’s storytelling and recollection of working for the Black Widow made the documentary into what Spellman called “more ridiculous than Scarface.”
At one point Ayala talks recalls how he and 10 other hit men went to see “Scarface” and they laughed at the scene in which hitmen failed to gun down the character, Tony Montoya.
“We would have got him,” he said.
Spellman said that he and Corbin wanted to do something in Miami and this story was perfect for them and they spent a lot of time researching.
“We wanted to produce films in Miami. Nobody’s down here producing films in Miami,” he said.
This film is Miami’s testament to the world that everything you see in the movies may actually be only close to the real thing.
The film is opening this Friday in Los Angeles and this Saturday in Miami and New York.