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Filmmakers spotlight South Florida’s pot smuggling past

Wed, Apr 13, 2011

South Florida History




Miami filmmakers Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben’s latest film, Square Grouper, follows three stories of marijuana smuggling in South Florida in the 1980s. One of these stories is about Everglades City, a small fishing town on the Gulf Coast that sits in the middle of Tamiami Trail. Many in this quaint village of 500 residents went from fishermen to pot smugglers. The documentary premieres April 14 in Miami.

Square Grouper

(Image courtesy of Alfred Spellman)


According to the filmmakers, Everglades City was the ideal spot for smuggling because of the “10,000 Islands” – a labyrinth of mangroves that only locals knew intimately. The town’s pot smuggling days came to an end when law enforcement got wind of the illegal activity and began running an undercover fish house. Operation Everglades 1 then followed, resulting in the arrest of 28 townspeople and nearby residents. It was the first of many busts, which ended with 80 percent of the town’s male population in prison.

Spellman and Corben run the Miami Beach producton company, Rakontur. Their previous films include the popular Cocaine Cowboys and The U. Square Grouper premieres April 14 at the O Cinema in Wynwood. There will be 11 screenings running through April 17. The documentary will also be featured at the Boca Film Festival and Florida Film Festival in Orlando.


  • Watch the trailer


  • Listen to Alfred Spellman talk about stumbling upon a drug bust in Surfside when he was a child
  • Anecdotes about the excess wealth that pot hauling brought to Everglades City


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