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The “Cocaine Cowboys” documentary franchise is back with the very story its creators say they wanted to tell in the first place: the story of Miami’s infamous billionaire drug lords Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta.
“Despite the fact that this is the fourth ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ story in the franchise, it is the first story that we had hoped to tell,” Director Billy Corben told Oxygen.com in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s the one that we originally set out to tell.”
The franchise began in 2006 with a documentary about Miami’s 1980s cocaine trade and the escalation of violence in the city. “Cocaine Cowboys 2” followed two years later and featured the "godmother" of cocaine trafficking, Griselda Blanco. “Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded” was released in 2014 with never before seen footage and stories about the Miami cocaine wars.
Now, “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami,” which began streaming on Netflix on Wednesday, hones in on the notorious Cuban-American duo Falcon and Magluta, known as “Los Muchachos.”
The pair were accused of importing more than 75 tons of cocaine into Miami, while generously giving back to their community with their overflowing pockets. They were mostly admired in Miami, known as much for their speedboat racing as for their non-violent drug activities. But that changed in 1991 when they were arrested and witnesses for the state began getting murdered.
“This is a community that knew them by their first names,” Corben told Oxygen.com.
He said that while he wanted to tell their tales back in 2006, “the timing wasn’t right.”
“Some stories need to ripen,” he said. “People need to feel comfortable obviously sitting on camera telling their story and we just couldn’t get the access.”
He stated that the first documentary in the “Cocaine Cowboys” franchise was created, in part, with the hopes that someday he could tell this pair’s story. He said that hope has come to fruition.
“People started coming out of prison, people started coming out of witness protection, people started to reach out to us and us to them and we started to accumulate these interviews,” Corben said.
He said that even Magluta reached out to him through friends and family and from prison. Corben and his producing partner Alfred Spellman gave an interview saying that telling this story was on their “bucket list” and Magluta just happened to read it.
“I think as someone says in the documentary there may be six degrees of Kevin Bacon but when it comes to Willy and Sal in Miami, you’re like one or two degrees away,” Corben told Oxygen.com. “Sal basically opened up his parents’ home to me [...] and I had access to Sal’s personal archives.”
The six-part docuseries is chock full of the duo's co-conspirators, many of whom have served prison time or gone into hiding after cooperating with investigators.
Corben said he has noticed a recent trend of people becoming more “inclined to participate sooner” in true crime documentaries and of people becoming “more inclined to tell their truth more candidly than one might expect from criminals.”
The participants in the docuseries definitely do not hold back. And the series goes beyond the drug trade to show how the drug lords corrupted the legal system by compromising three jurors in their criminal trial.
“I don't think it’s that common,” Corben said of the jury corruption. “What has to happen to accomplish that is you have to reach the jury and it is extraordinarily rare to have a defendant to not only have the resources of Willy and Sal, who incidentally spent nearly 25 million on their defense in their first trial, but to have the tentacles that they had to be able to reach out into the community to taint not just one, not just two, but three different jurors.”
He called it a phenomenon specific to Miami.
“Every facet of this system has been poisoned, particularly in Miami, by the extraordinary influx and influence of drug money and perhaps that wasn’t something that just dissipated in the 80s or 90s,” he told Oxygen.com.
He added that many involved in the drug lord’s “massive cocaine trafficking conspiracy” are “probably still here in Miami in positions of power, maybe even elected officials, maybe even in law enforcement.”
The director referred to Miami as "America's perpetual rebellious teenager," and "a sunny place for shady people."
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