Miami may be a relatively young city, but we sure have packed an awful lot into our 100ish years. A little bit Florida cracker, a heaping pot of tropical stew, and a whole lot of of drugs, greed, and violence have shaped our little Magic City into a steaming plate of stories so insane you have to see them to believe.
Fortunately, we've had beach-based content studio Rakontur capturing these stories for the big screen for 10 years, entertaining us, shocking our friends, and enabling us to understand this sweltering Babylon just a little bit better than before. From the insanely popular 'Cocaine Cowboys' to the critically acclaimed ESPN feature 'The U' to upcoming backyard fight doc 'Dawg Fight', Rakontur's three filmmaking partners have been telling our stories as only actual Miamians can: with context, honesty, humor, and a dash of unconditional love, marking the influences and events that have transformed South Florida from a sleepy vacation spot to a major metropolitan area in which many of America's social, criminal, and economic woes are sweatily waged on the most extreme scale.
Rakontur's director Billy Corben, producer Alfred Spellman, and co-producer and editor David Cypkin are deservedly getting a '10 Years of Rakontur' retrospective this week at Wynwood's O Cinema, a five-night slew of docs highlighted by a remix of 'Cocaine Cowboy's and the trio's controversial "lost" Sundance film, frat rape doc 'Raw Deal: A Question Of Consent.'
The 33-year-olds, who met in Miami at Highland Oaks Middle School, will gather with some of the stars of their films to talk about not just making movies, but their beloved concrete muse. A particular highlight is Tuesday night's interactive screening and 'Cocaine Cowboys' cast reunion, with legendary Miami figures Edna Buchanan, Al Sunshine, Nelson Andreu, Mickey Munday, Raul Diaz, and Sam Burstyn participating in a panel.
"We were looking back at the stories we've told in that ten years and they were really representative of South Florida for the last 30 or so," Spellman told HuffPost. "It's almost changed decade by decade. If you look at the start of the '80s with the cocaine wars to the end of the '80s and then the start of the 90s with the South Beach resurgence until, some might argue, the end of it in the 90s, and then the start of the 00's with the boom and the end of the 00's with the bust, you can basically mark time in South Florida decade by decade in terms of the transformation."
For Spellman, a lifelong Miami Hurricanes fan, the personal high point of the last 10 years of work wasn't Rakontur's first film being accepted to Sundance or meetings with Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer, but the premier of ESPN-commissioned 'The U'.
"Being able to make that film was a real pleasure for me personally," Spellman said. "Bringing all the people who I used to watch from the stands when I was a kid and put them all in the same room and watch that film together at the Lyric Theatre on the edge of Overtown, where a lot of these guys grew up, that was rewarding to me."
The future holds several Miami docs already in pipeline, including Perrine-set 'Dawg Fight', a look at Florida's real estate boom and bust, and a third Cocaine Cowboys installation about drug traffickers Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon. But above, the future remains steadfastly 305, with all three Rakontur partners dead set against decamping to Hollywood and committed to keeping the band together.
'If Billy is Mick and I'm Keith," Spellman said, laughing, "then Dave is Charlie Watts.'"
The Rakontur retrospective runs all week at O Cinema, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. nightly and film screenings starting at 7:30 p.m. Panel discussions immediately follow each film. Individual tickets are $14, students are $11, and VIP passes are available for the week for $60 or $55 for students. Click here to purchase tickets.
MONDAY, 7:30 p.m.: Raw Deal: A Question of Consent
Rakontur's first film was the talk of Sundance 2001, examining with controversial and explicit footage of a possible rape caught on tape at a University of Florida frat party. Exotic dancer Lisa Gier King's allegations prompted a widely divisive police investigation and the film still splits viewers -- usually, Spellman notes, straight down gender lines.
"I think the last time we screened this movie at a festival was eight or nine years ago," Spellman said, calling it "the worst date movie of all time" because of the arguments that ensue. Unavailable on Netflix, the screening is a rare chance to watch the flick on the big screen.
TUESDAY, 7:30 p.m.: 'Cocaine Cowboys' Cast Reunion
After a sneak peek at the upcoming 'Cocaine Cowboys Remixed' -- with all new stories from the cutting room floor -- central figures from the documentary including Edna Buchanan, Al Sunshine, Nelson Andreu, Mickey Munday, Raul Diaz, and Sam Burstyn will participate in a special panel and interactive screening.
"One of them told me the other day, 'I don't think I've been in the same room with the attorneys and cops since the courtroom in '86,'" Spellman said. "It'll be fun to put everybody in the same room and share some stories from the good old bad old days."
WEDNESDAY, 7:30 p.m.: 'The U: Director's Cut'
In the early '80s, Miami was both a mediocre football team and a city rife with racial tension. Unheralded football coach Howard Schnellenberger went into Miami's inner cities with a five-year championship plan, convincing brash, black players to join his program. Insanely talented, the new Hurricanes didn't play by anyone's rules, including the NCAA's, but changed the landscape of college football forever while becoming the winningest football program of the decade. Preceded by a screening of the short 'The Life And Freaky Times Of Uncle Luke.' Special guest: Luther Campbell.
THURSDAY, 7:30 p.m.: Square Grouper
Cocaine was king in the '80s, but before that Miami was all about the little green leaves. With South Florida holding a huge majority of marijuana seizures, the stories of the "Godfathers of Ganja" are told in this film, including Black Tuna Gang operator Robert Platshorn. He'll be joined at the screening by Mark Potter, Clifton Middleton, and others.
FRIDAY, 7:30 p.m.: A Conversation with Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman
CBS Miami's Jim DeFede will lead a talk with Rakontur's two public faces, illustrated with clips of unseen material and future projects.