Square Grouper (2011) - News Poster

News

Limelight

Peter Gatien, a striking man made slightly more intimidating by an eye patch he sports after losing an eye playing hockey in his youth, is the subject of Billy Corben's (Square Grouper) warts-and-all documentary Limelight, produced in part by Gatien's daughter Jen. Gatien masterminded several famous nightclubs, though the doc takes a look at Limelight, built on the site of a former Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. Sold off to a drug rehab program and then to Gatien, Limelight blossomed into one of the hottest spots in town. The founder overlooked the introduction of new musical styles into the mainstream and the rise of the club kids, one whom happened to be Michael Alig. Alig's murder of Andre Melendez cast media attention on the club and certainly aided its final shuttering, one of several attempts to close down the spot in the 1990s.

Read more...
See full article at JustPressPlay »

Square Grouper Review

Billy Corben, best known for directing the Miami drug documentary Cocaine Cowboys, is enamored with the region. Born and raised in Florida, then graduated with honors from the University of Miami, Corben’s debut was a controversial look into an alleged crime at rival school University of Florida. He followed up Cocaine Cowboys with a sequel, and a cultural piece about his alma mater’s football history.

With Square Grouper, Corben rewinds to the ’70s, pre-cocaine and post-”Peace and Love,” but still squarely in Miami, Florida. This time with three intelligently-divided and neatly-summarized stories of illegal marijuana smuggling. In refreshing objectivity, both sides of the criminal activity recall their fascinating true-life tales, a rarity for the “pot doc” sub-genre where a scroll through Netflix reveals a batch of half-baked legalization defenses.

First the Coptic Church, a “luxury commune” of shaggy hippies who exploited a loophole in the First Amendment
See full article at newsinfilm »

Interview: Billy Corben On 'Limelight', 'Dawg Fight'

  • Filmology
Billy Corben is a bit of a badass in the documentary game. Through his Miami-based media studio Rakontur, he produces down-and-dirty docs on everything from college sports to cocaine. His latest, Limelight, chronicles the astronomic rise and fall of New York nightclub kingpin Peter Gatien. I really dug it, and you will too, so see it at New York's Landmark Sunshine Cinema while you still can.

I was an Nyu student, I graduated in 2008. I never lived in Palladium, but I had several friends who did. I remember hearing, "Oh, it used to be a night club," but the cultural significance was never really expressed to me. Do you think the university has tried to downplay the importance of the location?

Well, they do still call it The Palladium. It's just a Google away. I believe that was the venue, when Peter owned it, that was the site of Moby's first ever solo gig.
See full article at Filmology »

Film: Movie Review: Limelight

Documentary filmmaker Billy Corben kicked off his career with 2001’s Raw Deal: A Question Of Consent, a provocative (and risible) Sundance conversation-starter that used real footage to determine the verity of a rape charge at a University Of Florida fraternity. From there, Corben firmly established himself as a chronicler—and even champion—of outlaws, from the drug smugglers of Cocaine Cowboys, Cocaine Cowboys II, and Square Grouper: The Godfathers Of Ganja to the notorious Miami Hurricanes football teams of the ’80s in the 30 For 30 doc “The U.” His latest effort, Limelight, extends some more sympathy to the ...
See full article at The AV Club »

"Limelight," reviewed

  • IFC
A version of this review ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

Billy Corben is the drug documentary kingpin of indie film. He's made two docs about cocaine, one about marijuana, and now "Limelight," about New York City's ecstasy soaked club scene in the 1990s. His particular specialty are films that ape their subject's pharmacological effects: "Cocaine Cowboys" is twitchy and paranoid; "Square Grouper" is mellow and easygoing to a fault. "Limelight" sends us tripping on a relentless 100-minute roll.

The man who leads us on this journey is Peter Gatien, a one-eyed club empresario from Canada who moved to the Us and started opening upscale discos all along the Eastern seaboard. New York, Miami, Atlanta, and then back to New York where he created his crown jewel: Limelight, a massive dance complex housed in a former Episcopal church. The AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s nearly killed his business,
See full article at IFC »

Party Favors: The Monster In The Middle Of This Column

  • Quick Stop
Durham, N.C. - During lunch a filmmaker tells me that of all the festivals he’s attended with his movies, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is the only one he wants to attend as a spectator. He enjoys how the various screens and activities aren’t spread all over the city. There’s a relaxed atmosphere as the festival-goers aren’t hustling hard to get tickets to sold out screenings. It’s a sweet Southern festival in the middle of Tobacco Road. Even the world’s biggest superstar just hangs out with the festival goers inside of hiding behind a wall of security.

Who is the superstar? Elmo! And we have an exclusive chat with him at the end of this column.

The film selection was once more top notch. An ample number of documentaries received their world debut in Durham. There were a few films that had built a buzz at Sundance,
See full article at Quick Stop »

Netflix Nuggets: Beautiful Ninja Elephants in Stone Boats

Netflix has revolutionized the home movie experience for fans of film with its instant streaming technology. Netflix Nuggets is my way of spreading the word about independent, classic and foreign films made available by Netflix for instant streaming.

The Beautiful Person (2008)

Streaming Available: 05/17/2011

Synopsis: After transferring to a new high school, beautiful Junie (Léa Seydoux) starts dating fellow student Otto (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), but she soon finds herself falling for Nemours (Louis Garrel), an Italian teacher already entangled in secret affairs with a pupil and colleague. Loosely based on Madame de Lafayette’s novel La Princesse de Clèves, this French drama explores the great pain that often accompanies love.

Average Netflix rating: 3.2 Araya (1959)

Streaming Available: 05/17/2011

Synopsis: Director Margot Benacerraf offers this acclaimed 1959 film that chronicles the harsh existence of Venezuelan laborers who manually recover salt from the tropical marshes in Araya, an ancient salt-producing region in that country.

Average Netflix rating: 3.3 Red,
See full article at WeAreMovieGeeks.com »

DVD Playhouse--May 2011

DVD Playhouse: May 2011

By

Allen Gardner

Blow Out (Criterion) Brian De Palma’s greatest Hitchcock homage, with a dash of Antonioni thrown in for good measure. John Travolta gives one of his best turns as a sound-effects engineer who unwittingly records a political assassination, then finds himself hunted by a ruthless hitman (John Lithgow, a memorably creepy psycho) after saving the life of the kindly, albeit dim-witted call girl (Nancy Allen, excellent) who was with the deceased. Terrific blend of suspense and very black humor, perhaps De Palma’s finest hour as an auteur. Beautifully shot by Vilmos Zsigmond. Also available on Blu-ray disc. Bonuses: Interviews with De Palma, Allen, cameraman Garrett Brown; Photo gallery; De Palma’s 1967 feature Murder a la Mod; Trailer. Widescreen. Dolby and DTS-hd 2.0 surround.

Kes (Criterion) Ken Loach’s landmark 1970 film is both a heart-rending portrait of adolescence, and a pointed socio-political commentary on life in the North of England.
See full article at The Hollywood Interview »

Tribeca 2011: "Limelight," Reviewed

  • IFC
Tribeca 2011:
Billy Corben is the drug documentary kingpin of indie film. He's made two docs about cocaine, one about marijuana, and now "Limelight," about New York City's ecstasy soaked club scene in the 1990s. His particular specialty are films that ape their subject's pharmacological effects: "Cocaine Cowboys" is twitchy and paranoid; "Square Grouper" is mellow and easygoing to a fault. "Limelight" sends us tripping on a relentless 100-minute roll.

The man who leads us on this journey is Peter Gatien, a one-eyed club empresario from Canada who moved to the Us and started opening upscale discos all along the Eastern seaboard. New York, Miami, Atlanta, and then back to New York where he created his crown jewel: Limelight, a massive dance complex housed in a former Episcopal church. The AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s nearly killed his business, but when a tough guy from Staten Island with the temerity to
See full article at IFC »

[Tribeca Video Review] Limelight

Documentary director Billy Corben is in the midst of a prolific 2011. The Cocaine Cowboys director premiered his marijuana doc Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja at SXSW (where we reviewed it and interviewed him). He has Dawg Fight coming later in the year, and he recently debuted Limelight at the Tribeca Film Festival. The doc follows Ontario-born Peter Gatien on his rise and fall as the “King of New York Clubs.”

Taking an exhilarating Goodfellas-esque approach on the fame, money, and lifestyle that came with opening the four biggest clubs in NYC, Corben introduces a set of real-life eclectic characters that could easily be found in Scorsese’s masterpiece. With a focus on the 80s and 90s club scene, specifically Limelight, we learn how Gatien climbed the ladder and was then hit with legal trouble due to the drug-fueled frenzy in the clubs.

Gatien’s slick and engaging demeanor make him the perfect doc subject.
See full article at The Film Stage »

Square Grouper

Summary:  The time: The 1970's. The place: Miami, Florida. The people: The Godfathers of Ganja.

The time: The 1970's. The place: Miami, Florida. The people: The Godfathers of Ganja. The documentary: The puzzlingly titled Square Grouper. A square grouper, the film informs us, is a bale of marijuana thrown from a plane. Ingenuity like this makes for an interesting watch. Director Billy Corben calls Square Grouper a prequel to his Cocaine Cowboys documentaries (soon to be reinvented on HBO), but these so-called criminals are far from Scarface wannabes. They're calm, cool, collected and nonviolent. Most believe in their right to traffic in weed, regardless of its legality, and they all pay the price, one way or another.

Screen Frontpage

read more
See full article at Filmology »

‘Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja’ (documentary)

Reviewed by Elliot V. Kotek

(from the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival)

Directed by: Billy Corben

Since the magnificent “Cocaine Cowboys,” Billy Corben has become the go-to guy for documentaries about illicit substances on and off the coast of Florida. While “Cowboys” tracked the history of Miami’s drug trade, “Square Grouper” refers squarely to a colloquialism for the bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of airplanes in South Florida in the 1970s and 1980s.

The film divides the local business into three big personalities: the Zion Coptics, the Black Tuna Gang and Everglades City.

With footage from “60 Minutes” dating back to 1979, Corben introduces the ganja-smoking Zion Coptics who set up a cult-like camp around cannabis and built an expansive empire inclusive of farms, boats, cars, buses and Cadillacs. While the Coptics united under the auspices of a religion, ultimately the authorities frustrated their activities. Corben, true to form,
See full article at Moving Pictures Magazine »

‘Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja’ (documentary)

Reviewed by Elliot V. Kotek

(from the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival)

Directed by: Billy Corben

Since the magnificent “Cocaine Cowboys,” Billy Corben has become the go-to guy for documentaries about illicit substances on and off the coast of Florida. While “Cowboys” tracked the history of Miami’s drug trade, “Square Grouper” refers squarely to a colloquialism for the bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of airplanes in South Florida in the 1970s and 1980s.

The film divides the local business into three big personalities: the Zion Coptics, the Black Tuna Gang and Everglades City.

With footage from “60 Minutes” dating back to 1979, Corben introduces the ganja-smoking Zion Coptics who set up a cult-like camp around cannabis and built an expansive empire inclusive of farms, boats, cars, buses and Cadillacs. While the Coptics united under the auspices of a religion, ultimately the authorities frustrated their activities. Corben, true to form,
See full article at Moving Pictures Network »

The Best of SXSW Film Festival 2011

South By Southwest is largely awesome as a condition of place. Austin is an amazing case study that has much going right. It is a city of filmmakers, lovers and scholars with public and private support. An organization with the most visible influence is the Austin Film Society, which sponsors filmmaker financially through the new Texas Filmmakers Fund (partly funding two strong films I saw – Where Soldiers Come From and Five Time Champion) amongst other initiatives. I think SXSW Film has grown partly because Texas filmmaking has grown. There is a large display of strong work including the festival’s Lone Star States showcase. This is as much a local festival as it a national festival (and shockingly less so an international festival, with very little work from other non-traditional Hollywood funding bodies like Europe).

The flexibility of SXSW to discover new voices is one of their leading strengths. If
See full article at The Film Stage »

Andrea Berloff To Scribe ‘Cocaine Cowboys’

World Trade Center screenwriter Andrea Berloff has been tapped to write the feature version of Cocaine Cowboys, Paramount’s narrative adaptation of the documentary by Square Grouper director Billy Corben. [THR]

Cocaine Cowboys is the true story of Jon Roberts, a wounded Vietnam vet who went on to be a cocaine kingpin in Miami in the 1970′s before becoming a government prisoner. The documentary chronicles the vast tapestry of the drugs, crime and vice that forever linked the words “coke” and “Miami.”

Berloff – who also has the Nwa bio Straight Outta Compton in development – takes over the project from Generation Kill screenwriter Evan Wright, whose book on the subject (co-written with Roberts), American Desperado: My Life — From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset, will be published later this year.

Having written Oliver Stone‘s fairly tepid World Trade Center, let’s hope a little of Stone’s old-school
See full article at The Film Stage »

[SXSW Interview] Director Billy Corben and Team on ‘Square Grouper’

I’ve been a fan of Billy Corben, Alfred Spellman and their Miami-based production company Rakontur since the highly entertaining documentary Cocaine Cowboys premiered in 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival. Their latest, Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja recently had its world premiere at South By Southwest, and The Film Stage sat down with director Corben, producer Spellman, producer/researcher Lindsay Snell, and a member of the film’s infamous Black Tuna Gang chronicled in the film, straight out of jail – Robert Platshorn.

After a film festival and college tour, the film will be released on DVD (April 19th) and Video on Demand (April 22nd) by Magnolia Pictures. Rakontur’s next film, Limelight will follow in Cocaine Cowboy’s footsteps, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.

Tfs: Thanks for sitting down with us – your stories from your first film Raw Deal: A Question of Consent to Cocaine Cowboys
See full article at The Film Stage »

"Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja," Reviewed

  • IFC
With "Cocaine Cowboys," filmmaker Billy Corben simultaneously told the story of the South Florida drug trade of the 1970s and replicated some of the scene's live-wire energy with twitchy editing and frenetic pacing. He didn't just tell you what '70s Miami was like; he gave you a tate of what it felt like too. Corben's new film, "Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja," takes a similar approach to South Florida's pot smuggling trade of the same period. But in this case, Corben may have replicated his subject's pharmaceutical effects a little too well. I've heard of movies for potheads; "Square Grouper" is movie as pothead: mellow, genial, and a little sleepy.

"Cowboys" weaved a massive tapestry of crime and vice across two continents, but "Square Grouper" is a small-scale anthology, three different stories of high times in the Florida lowlands. In the first and best segment, the Ethiopian Zion
See full article at IFC »

[SXSW Review] Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja

Billy Corben has been working in the dark side of underground South Florida economies since his Cocaine Cowboys series. Here, with Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja, he shifts his drug of choice to something a bit more mellow. The film is a documentary of the economies as well as the personalities – on both sides of the law – responsible for marijuana distribution. Given access to a slew of subjects – some have spent more than 25 years in prison – Square Grouper is a well-made, well-rounded documentary. Told in three parts – from Coptic Farms, a Star Island import operation which had the Government of Jamaica (and it’s prime minister) in its pocket to Everglade City, where the local sheriff’s department is on the distributors’ payroll to the Black Tuna Gang, a smuggling operation center.

The title (“Square Grouper”) is a term for fishing bails of marijuana that have been thrown over board.
See full article at The Film Stage »

SXSW Film 2011 Cheat Sheet

  • IFC
...Or we should say "Cheat Sheets" since this year's SXSW Film Festival boasts over 140 films, requiring more than just one page to cover every single one of the narrative and documentary features that will be playing in Austin from March 11th through 19th. While the festival has already provided a very helpful schedule to flip through and Pdf of the screening grid online, consider this your quick hit guide to all the features at the festival - every title leads to its corresponding festival page in addition to links to trailers, official sites, filmmakers' Facebook pages and Twitter accounts so you can follow the action from the festival or from home.

Meanwhile, there will be plenty of action during these next two weeks on IFC.com where, in addition to our live video page, Matt Singer (@mattsinger) and I (@mfrushmore) will be filing reviews and interviews throughout the film festival.
See full article at IFC »

Trailering: SXSW Film

  • IFC
We're just two weeks away from the kick-off of South by Southwest 2011 -- and while I'm prepping for our big Spirit Awards weekend, I'm also trying to really dig into this year's SXSW schedule. Thankfully, SXSW's YouTube channel has almost 100 trailers uploaded. I picked out five of the more intriguing looking (but maybe a little lesser known) films to share here. This is what I picked:

"Fightville"

Directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein

SXSW Premiere: Saturday March 12, 4:30 Pm, Vimeo Theater

The newest documentary from the directors of "Gunner Palace" is the story of what a baseball fan like me would describe as the "minor leagues" of Mixed Martial Arts: the training ground where young fighters are made or destroyed. Mma is a huge part of the modern sports scene but it's been almost completely unexamined from a documentary perspective, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this.

"Surrogate Valentine
See full article at IFC »
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Showtimes | External Sites