Cocaine Cowboys: The Story of the Billionaires Who Controlled Miami | Documentary

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Bbefore Breaking Bad, Narcos and all the other thrillers, telenovelas and docuseries about the traffickers cluttering your Netflix queue, there was Cocaine Cowboys. Director Billy Corben’s lucid and sensational 2006 documentary about drug trafficking in Miami in the ’80s has become a cult classic and a fundamental point of reference for all the narco-content that has followed.

The doc even spawned his own small franchise, with two sequels (Cocaine Cowboys 2 in 2008 and Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded in 2014) that delve deeper into the war stories of law enforcement, lawyers, journalists, smugglers and assassins. Now, Corben and his production partner Alfred Spellman return to the Bottomless Pit for a new six-part docusery arriving on Netflix.

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami focus on Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, or “Los Muchachos,” as Cuban billionaires have become known. They were dominant but unpretentious figures in Miami drug trafficking, accused of importing 75 tons of cocaine into Miami. They didn’t have the reputation for violence of someone like Griselda Blanco, who featured prominently in the Cocaine Cowboys trilogy. Instead, Falcon and Magluta largely stayed off the law enforcement radar until their arrest in 1991. But that wasn’t the end of their story. They continuously escaped convictions and convictions for at least a decade because of their influence over Miami’s business, political, and legal institutions.

Falcon and Magluta were also a curious structuring absence in the original Cocaine Cowboys, leaving Miami audiences who knew the headlines at the time to wonder why their story wasn’t being told. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

“The Kings of Miami is the fourth title in the franchise, but it’s the first story we wanted to tell,” Corben told The Guardian. The director explains that the court cases that ultimately sidelined Falcon and Magluta had just ended early on, and the peripheral actors, some who had just been released from prison or witness protection, were not yet ready to go. manifest in a documentary. “The wounds were too fresh. The story hadn’t yet matured to the point where everyone stood back and some distance and were ready to talk about it.

Our conversation comes and goes over the 15 years between their 2006 documentary and their new series, which covers the ground that Corben and Spellman couldn’t the first time around. The original Cocaine Cowboys became an epic mosaic of Miami that we know today as a city built brick by brick of cocaine. In it, Corben and Spellman present a thesis that Miami was the “only successful case study of Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economy,” as the benefits of drug trafficking grossing over $ 7 billion hit all facets of the community. “If you were a grocer, a jeweler, in real estate, selling wine, or had a restaurant or a nightclub, you were touched by those narco dollars.”

If their 2006 documentary was about how the “cocaine cowboys” built Miami real estate, the Netflix series reveals how Falcon and Magluta were the crooked joists supporting its corridors of justice. Kings of Miami plays out like a courtroom drama that begins when most cartel movies and TV shows end: with Falcon and Magluta getting arrested. They are subsequently tried and retried. But with each episode, the cunning kingpins escape thanks to the people on their payroll. Lawyers, prison guards, witnesses and jurors were all within reach of Falcon and Magluta, whose organization corrupted the entire criminal justice system while keeping it afloat. “They often joke here that Willy and Sal and the satellite affairs have helped support the South Florida Criminal Defense Bar for 10, 15, 20 years,” says Corben.

The story of Falcon and Magluta was always going to be too important for a feature film. One of the perks of Corben and Spellman not saying it the first time around is that they have more room to explore the case as a series, which wasn’t much of an option 15 years ago. “I think Ken Burns was the only person who could do something like that,” says Corben, referring to the documentary maker behind Civil War and National Parks. “But he invented his own genre. No one else was allowed to do it. It was his thing.

Salvatore ‘Sal’ Magluta and Augusto ‘Willy’ Falcon. Photography: Courtesy of Netflix / NETFLIX

Corben credits 2015’s The Jinx and Making a Murderer for opening the true floodgates of crime, making the current iteration of Cocaine Cowboys possible. He also says that the proliferation of the genre in recent years has made it easier to acquire subjects, as people these days are much more documentary savvy and more willing to tell their stories on camera. “There are a lot of people in Miami, when they get out of jail the first call is for their mother and the second for us,” says Corben. He adds that now the challenge is to control everyone who shows up. “There are several people who said they were the son of Pablo Escobar who might not be the son of Pablo Escobar.”

The Kings of Miami can also count on considerable shorthand, considering all the related content that has come out since the first Cocaine Cowboys. The series does not dwell on the exhibit or delve deep into the logistics of Los Muchachos’ operations. There is a remarkable confidence in the storytelling, indicating that Falcon and Magluta were working with the Medellin Cartel but resists the temptation to mention Escobar, its notorious leader.

But Corben points out that they’re establishing enough of them that audiences don’t need to have seen the prerequisites to follow the story of Falcon and Magluta standing on its own. It’s not like a Marvel movie, Corben says, where you had to have seen two dozen previous films to keep up with what’s going on. “As soon as I skip a Marvel movie, I’m like, ‘Oh, no! I won’t have any idea what’s going on. It’s like homework.

Familiarity with Cocaine Cowboys movies and shows like Narcos only makes The Kings of Miami experience better. But so does the familiarity with The Godfather, Scarface, The Untouchables, and Miami Vice, which are often used to explain the finer details of Falcon and Magluta’s operations. The Kings of Miami is aware of the relationship between its subjects and popular culture. They are, after all, personalities who influenced and were in turn influenced by Scarface and Miami Vice.

One of the pilots of Operation Los Muchachos who appears in The Kings of Miami, Ralph Linero, even ended up working on Michael Mann’s film Miami Vice in 2006. Meanwhile, the wife of an informant, Alexia Echevarria, became a star of The Real Housewives of Miami before appearing in the new Cocaine Cowboys.

“It feels like a very meta postmodern world we live in now,” says Corben, who adds that his famous subjects are often very critical and picky about how movies and television portray their work. “It’s like reading Yelp reviews. When drug dealers criticize Miami Vice, they just say, “Come on! We never did that! A star!'”

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