By Sarah Bennett

The wild, weed-filled world of '70s Florida is on display in Square Grouper.

Billy Corben is the biggest name in Florida-based entertainment outside of Disney, even if the films he makes are less about fictional princesses and more about legendary drug lords. Corben, who was born and raised in the Sunshine State, is a documentary filmmaker, probably best known for Cocaine Cowboys, his colorful exposé of the ultra-violent drug wars that tore Miami apart during the ‘80s. Florida’s location has long made it a prime harbor for the drug trade (which might explain its often dubious population).

Quasi-cult leaders and drug lords? What a two-fer!

Corben’s actually made multiple films about Miami, including a Cocaine Cowboys sequel and The U for ESPN, which chronicled the  football program at the University of Miami and featured a soundtrack by the godfather of Miami booty bass: 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell. The only thing that could’ve made that documentary more Miami-rific was an appearance by Dexter and the ghost of Bea Arthur.

Square Grouper is the third film in Corben’s unofficial Florida Drug Trade troika, focusing on the three of the biggest moments in the state’s history as a pot hub. The film provides several perspectives -- from the quasi-Rastafarian cult in Miami that worshipped weed while smuggling it from Jamaica and making millions, to commercial fishermen who turned into smugglers when they are no longer able to fish the Everglades. It turns out, the movie's title, “square grouper,” refers to the giant bundles of weed that were thrown overboard when boats were approached by the DEA or the Coast Guard -- which fisherman would then find in their nets as the real catch of the day. 

"Square grouper" are tonight's seafood special.


Before the Mexican drug cartels got involved, the marijuana trade was nowhere near as ruthless and decapitation-friendly as cocaine was with the Columbians, so Square Grouper isn’t as intense as the Cocaine Cowboys movies. The biggest casualty of the weed trade, at least in this film, is all the booty bass that was taken out of the soundtrack and replaced with Jimmy Buffett. Even so, Square Grouper is still an interesting look at one of the more bizarre chapters in American history.