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Square Grouper: Godfathers of Ganja (2011)

n , a , Billy Corben , Alfred Spellman  |  R |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: n, a
  • Directors: Billy Corben, Alfred Spellman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004L9GLPE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,437 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Square Grouper: Godfathers of Ganja" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

In 1979, the U.S. Customs Service reported that 87% of all marijuana seizures in the U.S. were made in the South Florida area. Due to the region's 5,000 miles of coast and coastal waterways and close proximity to the Caribbean and Latin America, South Florida was a pot smuggler's paradise. 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 Everglades City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Hudson
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I've been waiting to see "Square Grouper" since I first heard that Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys 1 & 2, Raw Deal) was directing the documentary. I became a Corben fan with "Cocaine Cowboys" and I've enjoyed all of his documentaries so far. What Corben does so well in his documentaries is that he infuses current footage and interviews from the actual people involved in the "crimes" with older archived footage and news broadcasts. These factors give his films such a realistic and edgy feel, not to mention authenticity provided by the first-hand sources including the "criminals", police, lawyers and FBI.

Knowing Corben's style, I went in to this film expecting "Cocaine Cowboys" with marijuana. This film is different though. It presents three separate stories, all set in the state of Florida (naturally, being a Corben film). The main difference in "Square Grouper" is that the pace isn't as fast as "Cocaine Cowboys". Much more mellow, yet still informative and imaginative. I find this fact very befitting the subject matter (or should I say, substance matter?).

The first story is about The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, who believe that marijuana is a sacrament, and the ensuing smuggling charges dropped on them. This part of the film examines the government's stand against a church centered around ganja. The media labeled them as a cult, they saw themselves as nothing but a church. Inevitably, the police become involved. The film begins with a verse from the Bible: "Behold I have given you every green herb bearing seed..." (Genesis 1:29) and I think this is a very important thing to consider for people who are against legalization (if you are a religious person).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
In the 1970s, Floridians called the many bales of pot that were adrift in the ocean "square grouper." The new documentary, Square Grouper, tells three different stories about Florida's 1970s pot culture. The three stories are good - but vary in quality.

The first concerns the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, which started when a hippie traveled to Jamaica in search of pot. Eventually, this led to a network of hippies who claimed the herb as a sacrament. They bought a huge house in Miami Beach (to the consternation of their neighbors) and appeared on "60 Minutes" in 1979. This story is amazing - you can't make this up.

The second vignette was the sole disappointment. It concerns a group of pot dealers known as the Black Tuna gang. The former dealers are not contrite (about dealing, planning to "take care of" a judge, and trying to bribe a juror). In fact, they blame all of their problems on a government vendetta. The story is interesting, but I didn't like the Black Tuna people.

The final story sets the film back on course. Deep in Florida's backwaters lies the tiny fishing village of Everglade City. After the local fishing industry collapsed, many of the townspeople became involved in transporting pot; in fact, so many became transporters that - at one time - 80 percent of the men in the town were in the corrections system. Again, there are good stories - particularly about how the good ol' boys spent the money that they made dealing.

While I'm not crazy about the Black Tuna segment, Square Grouper is well worth watching.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
I was there, this is true, and crazy, and just what it was like S. Fla, was a smugglers dream. This should have been legal since the 70's. You can feel what it's like to be a pirate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laws are great April 29, 2013
By X
Helps show that the "war on drugs" is an absolute joke and a failure. Many of these non-violent offenders did decades of prison time for a PLANT THAT GROWS IN THE WILD. The first group of smugglers portrayed, Coptic Church, were letting the children smoke their weed and thus should have been prosecuted for this over anything else but overall, the remainder of the people were just ordinary folks with families that certainly did not deserve the treatment they received by a worthless government agency (DEA).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good history of things I was never aware of... March 20, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video
The documentary takes you through a time in history that many have forgotten, a time when a group used religion as means to attempt legalization of marijuana, a time when other groups took advantage of a black market drug. Very enjoyable to see the 70's and 80's from this director's perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable!! February 24, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
Extremely educational flick. Your not going to be on the edge of your seat for this one but rather sit back,relax and enjoy some fine film making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Square Grouper August 27, 2012
Format:Amazon Instant Video
I live in South Florida now and had heard of these days. The documentary was extremely interesting and reflects how very different those days of drug smuggling were than the violent, deadly world of today. It would appear to me that these guys got the shaft, and no one ever came to their rescue.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Corben Strikes again for South Florida August 4, 2011
By Greg
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is the three pronged tale of Marijuana Smuggling in South Florida. The Movie is a classic Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys, The U) documentary. He is a Miami native and a graduate of The University of Miami.

This, to me is part of Corben's documentaries giving Florida a much needed unique identity. Not just the vacation place for New Yorkers,or a drug state (despite the two documentaries!). Obviously this is not what the movie is about, it is about the stories of 3 communities in South Florida and how they brought in dope, and how it affected them and their communities. He starts in Miami with Ethiopian Coptic Church, a very country part of the Everglades City that was dramatically changed economically by the enterprise and the Black Tuna Gang. The reason for the title is revealed in the movie if you do not get the reference.

If you are interested in drug trafficking, South Florida, good documentaries or Corben's work, you HAVE TO watch this.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Time wasted
Incredibly boring treatment of an interesting subject.
Published 1 day ago by cacique
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
just okay
Published 12 days ago by James Douglas
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
crappy documentry
Published 24 days ago by malaika mebane
4.0 out of 5 stars The drug dealers just wanting to get by.
funny and insightful history.
Published 2 months ago by Frank Schwarz
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
All I could say it was entertaining LOL
Published 3 months ago by Ed Everett
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative
Great documentary in Mr. Corben's signature style. Very well put together and informative. A great example of American ingenuity and adaptability, regarding Everglades City.
Published 4 months ago by NC Pirate
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary
Interesting documentary - quite a switch from the usual Miami Vice stories of ruthless coke dealers, etc. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Righteous Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Square grouper
I was there. A great time was had by all. There were days when everybody in the Keys was making money.
Published 6 months ago by Craig V.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
This is a great movie showing how inventive smuggling can be

Who knew that you could just paint the waterlines on your boat so when it was loaded down with Ganja, it... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Every Miles A Memory
5.0 out of 5 stars Great documentary
Finally an unbiased look at Marijuana smuggling and the key participants in it over time. Goes over 5 different cases and all are intriguing. Great film work and interviews.
Published 7 months ago by JB and LB
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