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Magnolia Acquires Pot Doc ‘Square Grouper’

Studio buys worldwide rights to documentary about marijuana smuggling in the 1970s

Magnolia Pictures announced Tuesday the acquisition of global rights to "Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja," Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman's documentary about South Floridian pot smuggling in the 1970s.

Corben and Spellman are best known for the TV docu-series  "Cocaine Cowboys," as well as the ESPN "30 for 30" installment "The U," which chronicled the Miami Hurricane football dynasty.

The film will make its debut at SXSW, then be distributed by Magnolia later this year.

Here's the full Magnolia announcement:

Magnolia Pictures Acquires World Rights to Marijuana Doc SQUARE GROUPER: THE GODFATHERS OF GANJA

New York, NY – February 8, 2011 – The Wagner/Cuban Company's Magnolia Pictures announced today they have acquired all world rights to SQUARE GROUPER: THE GODFATHERS OF GANJA, a wildly entertaining doc about pot smuggling in 1970s South Florida from Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman of rakontur, the filmmakers behind the globally popular Cocaine Cowboys series and ESPN’s The U.

Named after the bales of marijuana that were often caught in the warm Florida coastal waters by unsuspecting fishermen, SQUARE GROUPER is a vivid portrait of South Florida’s pot smuggling culture in the 1970s. It focuses on three incredible stories from the era: the infamous Black Tuna Gang, a group of savvy smugglers led by Robert Platshorn, the longest serving marijuana prisoner in US History; the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, whose members (including children) all smoked marijuana from morning till night, and ran a massive pot dealing operation out of Miami Beach’s exclusive Star Island;  and Everglades City, a tiny fishing village 80 miles west of Miami with an brazenly outlaw history of smuggling, from endangered animals, to rum, to weed.

Directed by Corben and produced by Spellman, SQUARE GROUPER will be making its world premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, and will be released by Magnolia Pictures later this year. The first of a recently negotiated first look deal between rakontur and Magnolia, the film will be brought to the Berlin European Film Market this week and represented by Magnolia International.

Magnolia’s plans for distribution in 2011 include a 40 city tour of college campuses in select metro markets following the SXSW premiere, coordinated by Todd Sklar of Range Life Entertainment. Robert Platshorn of the Black Tuna Gang will embark on a speaking tour in conjunction with the release.  The film will be screened at the High Times Medicinal Cannabis Cup in Denver, CO on April 1, 2011, and both High Times and NORML will partner with Magnolia to promote select preview screenings.

The DVD will launch on 4/19, in commemoration of 4/20.

“Billy and Alfred have struck gold again with SQUARE GROUPER.  They are consistently making some of the most entertaining docs of anyone working today,” said Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn.  “Fans of Cocaine Cowboys and The U are going to love SQUARE GROUPER.”

“We’re thrilled to be back in business with our friends at Magnolia,” said rakontur’s Spellman. “They have proven to be terrific partners with a keen understanding of the marketplace, a fine appreciation of our work and a high tolerance for our nonsense.”

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn with Alfred Spellman.