IMDb > Square Grouper (2011)

Square Grouper (2011) More at IMDbPro »

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Square Grouper -- In sharp contrast to the brazenly violent cocaine cowboys of the 1980s, Miami's marijuana smugglers were cooler, calmer, and typically nonviolent. Square Grouper paints a vivid portrait of Miami's pot smuggling culture in the '70s and '80s and its major players: the smuggling Black Tuna Gang, the pot dealing Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church and the tiny fishing village of Everglades City.
Square Grouper -- A colorful portrait of Miami's pot smuggling scene of the 1970s, populated with redneck pirates, a ganja-smoking church, and the longest serving marijuana prisoner in American history


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Release Date:
15 April 2011 (USA) See more »
The incredible true story of the 1970's pot smuggler culture.
A colorful portrait of Miami's pot smuggling scene of the 1970s, populated with redneck pirates, a ganja-smoking church, and the longest serving marijuana prisoner in American history. | Add synopsis »
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(28 articles)
 (From JustPressPlay. 20 March 2012, 8:04 PM, PDT)

Film: Movie Review: Limelight
 (From The AV Club. 21 September 2011, 10:01 PM, PDT)

"Limelight," reviewed
 (From IFC. 11 September 2011, 8:50 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Movie Review: "Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja" See more (2 total) »


Robert Platshorn ... Himself

Directed by
Billy Corben 
Produced by
Billy Corben .... producer
Todd Michael Glaser .... executive producer
Robert Kahn .... executive producer
Jenna Moshell Rosenfeld .... line producer (as Jenna Moshell)
Lindsey Snell .... producer
Alfred Spellman .... producer
Dudley Whitman .... executive producer
Cinematography by
Ralf Gonzalez 
Alexa Harris 
Jordan Klein Jr. 
Benjamin Rabbers 
Trisha Solyn (NY unit)
Matt Staker 
Randy Valdes 
Film Editing by
David Cypkin 
Jorge Diaz 
Production Management
Tommy Demos .... unit production manager: Everglades City
Jenna Moshell Rosenfeld .... production manager (as Jenna Moshell)
Sound Department
Alex Alvarez .... production sound mixer
Felix Alvarez .... boom operator
Dan Bricker .... sound mixer
Christopher Cimaglia .... sound mixer
Eric M. Moorman .... production sound mixer
Mike Reed .... post-audio 2nd engineer
Titus Woodham .... audio mixing engineer
Titus Woodham .... sound editor
Visual Effects by
Brandon Braswell .... visual effects
Ricardo Pagan .... visual effects
Policus .... logo designer
Camera and Electrical Department
Jared Ames .... gaffer
Jorge Castillo .... camera operator
Jorge Diaz .... data tech
Brian Dilg .... camera operator
Dominic Easter .... camera operator
Andrew Engert .... best boy
Daniel Fiorito .... camera operator
Diego Garzon .... best boy
Hiroshi Hara .... key grip
Samuel Herbig .... data tech
Stephen Long .... best boy
Patrick McGowan .... data tech
Francisco Moises .... key grip
Paco Moises .... key grip (as Francisco Moises)
John Moustakas .... gaffer
David Null .... key grip
Geinseer Ogando .... grip
Thomas Risavy .... camera operator
Jeremy Rodriguez .... camera operator
Brien Sauchelli .... key grip
Danny Stefnaski .... gaffer
Elvis Suarez .... data tech
Denis Warburton .... data tech
Patrick Zirini .... gaffer
Editorial Department
Lindsey Snell .... assistant editor
Other crew
Rudy Aguilar .... production assistant
Brittany Ankari .... production assistant
Gabrielle Banks .... production assistant
Brandon Braswell .... production assistant
Elliott Brown .... assistant researcher
Elliott Brown .... production assistant
Elliott H. Brown .... assistant researcher
Tommy Demos .... production assistant
Rob Dionne .... dit
Michael Donaldson .... clearance counsel
Jaytyler Ferretti .... production assistant
Jonathan Franklin .... production assistant
Brad Klipfel .... production assistant
Ingi Larusson .... production assistant
Eric Lichtenstein .... production assistant
Mirely Maldonado .... production assistant
David Marcus .... production assistant
Raina Oberlin .... production assistant
Javier Ordonez .... production assistant
Christopher L. Perez .... clearance counsel
Ernesto Prieto .... production assistant
Emerson Rosenthal .... production assistant
Alex Silverstein .... production assistant
Michael Toledo .... production assistant
Will Vargas .... production assistant
Gabriel Villanueva Lamas .... production assistant (as Gabriel Villanueva)

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja" - USA (festival title)
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Rated R for images of drug use - some involving children
USA:100 min
USA:R (certificate #46723)
Filming Locations:


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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
Movie Review: "Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja", 12 June 2011
Author: jkarimi2007 from Des Moines Iowa

This review is from my blog ( and can also be seen at

I just rented and watched Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja on I'd highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in a good story.

Square Grouper (click here for the official website) has three different stories to tell: the DEA/FBI frame-up of "The Black Tuna Gang," the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and Everglades City.

Everglades City, a quiet fishing town on the coast in Florida, turned to marijuana smuggling after the National Park Service phased out commercial fishing in the area. These average Americans, long accustomed to fishing, became the subject of an intense DEA investigation that resulted in the arrests of 80% of the town's male population.

L.B. Turner, Everglades resident at the time, had this to say about the National Park Service: "Every time they figured out that we could make a living doing something, they put regulations on it." While the NPS had promised that commercial fishermen would not lose their livelihood, that promise ended up being broken. The men who turned to smuggling marijuana for a living aren't the kind of people you were warned about in D.A.R.E they're your next door neighbors! The Black Tuna Gang was an infuriating tale of corruption, frame-ups, and media bias. Robert Platshorn, the longest-serving non-violent marijuana "criminal" to date, was the scapegoat of the failed Operation Banco, the first joint FBI/DEA operation in US history. The IRS and Customs investigated Operation Banco due to it's high cost to taxpayers with little to no results. The DEA and FBI, needing results, set up "The Black Tuna Gang" and utilized " a campaign that showcased many tactics the drug warriors would hone and expand over the next twenty-five years: sleazy paid informants, so-called expert witnesses, selective prosecution, inflated statistics " (High Times February 2005) and more.

During the movie, Platshorn explained why he jumped into smuggling. "I honestly thought pot was going to be legalized. That we were only a few years away." Platshorn saw a closing window of opportunity to make money, and ended up in way hotter water than he ever expected. At the time of his arrest, the average sentence was roughly 3 to 7 years; Platshorn was sentenced to 64 years. Watch the movie for the whole story it's the best of the three in my opinion.

Finally, The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a Rastafari sect from Jamaica that stirred up controversy in Florida in the late 70′s, highlighted the religious use of marijuana. The Church gained lots of media attention during their operation on Star Island, including a 1979 CBS News special titled "Holy Smoke" by Dan Rather. See the archived CBS News special here.

Here's a couple memorable quotes from Brother Louv of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church: "The young people do not support the system that the old people have asked us to inherit. It is corrupt. But by making millions of people criminals, they have destroyed the credibility of the youth, and the American system." "I know that men made drugs and I know that God made herbs. So if their judgment in there is that marijuana is a drug, then put me in the jail with all the drug addicts, put me in the jail with all the criminals, and I'll sit there and laugh at you. And I know there's probably ganja being burned in there also." Square Grouper was really quite interesting. The story telling was original, and the real-life smuggling stories told by the men of Everglades City were cynically humorous. Seeing a city councilman discuss the economic benefits that marijuana brought the struggling and neighborly town isn't something you see everyday. The heartbreaking set up of the Black Tuna Gang shows the impact the War on Drugs has had on individuals and families. And the courage of Brother Louv, speaking against the corruption of the War on Drugs, which entraps and harms patients, lawyers, doctors, sports stars, college students families, neighbors, friends is an inspiring call to action. I highly encourage everyone to watch "Square Grouper," and get a glimpse at some stories from the War on Liberty that you won't be seeing on TV anytime soon.

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