Few people are as well-informed as Miami native and famed Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter and you'll know exactly what's going on in Miami. His blog The Billy Pulpit features a series of controversial news stories centered around and relevant to the residents of Miami. Cultist recently sat down with the documentary filmmaker to discuss his top documentary-worthy Florida news stories of the year.
"I was interested when I read the question," said Corben about our inquiry. "Its much different asking what news story is documentary worthy then just asking what the top news story is. For a news story to be documentary worthy, it has to have certain qualities allowing you to be able to really get into the topic."
The first news story Corben felt had those qualities centered around Palm Beach resident Daniel Imperato. Imperato ran for President of the United States in 2008 and sought the Florida governor office as a Libertanian candidate in the last election. "The first time we heard of (Imperato), it was obvious there was something quirky about him," said Corben. Sure enough, in January the Securities Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against Imperato alleging that he defrauded investors of $2.5 million and funneled some of the cash into his 2008 presidential campaign fund. Cortben felt the campaign and the wealth of original video Imperato had produced on YouTube made the story a viable candidate for a documentary.
The next story Corben mentioned was about Narcy Novack, the widow of Ben Novack Jr. Novack was convicted in June for the killing of her mother-in-law and husband, whose father had built what is considered Miami Beach's most architecturally and historically significant hotel, the Fontainebleau. With her marriage on the rocks and her in danger of missing out on acquiring any of her husband's fortune due to a prenuptial agreement, Narcy hired thugs to brutally beat her husband and his mother to death in separate incidents. Part of the motivation was her desire to acquire one of the world's largest Batman memorabilia collections which her husband had amassed.
Corben had a specific take on how he would approach a documentary about one of the biggest news stories of the year - the face-eating attack of Ronald Poppo by Rudy Eugene. Corben felt there was an undue mass panic about bath salts created in part by Miami chief of the Fraternal Order of Police Armando Aguilar. Corben cited a recent article by Frank Owen in Playboy that uncovers the extent officials went to in order to blame the attack on bath salts, which had not even been found in Eugene's system.
Corben also mentioned the controversy surrounding the use of public funds to build the Miami Marlins Stadium. Politicians and even the Miami Herald had a hand in creating propaganda in order to get the stadium funded. Since being built, the stadium has done little to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood as had been promised. Storefronts remain vacant and the Marlins recently fired their manager Ozzie Guillen and traded away all their best players after a miserable season in which attendance figures only slightly increased from the MLB-low numbers the Marlins had drawn in the past.
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Other news stories Corben felt were documentary worthy include the widespread corruption of Miami Beach politicians and police officers; the B-Girls in South Beach that scammed clubgoers by drugging them and racking up their credit cards; the Bal Harbour officials that were discovered to have laundered drug money; and the attempt by republicans in Florida to disenfranchise voters. Corben himself is actually registered as an independent, but he acknowledged policies republicans used to try and eliminate many democratic voters. "Republicans went after voter fraud when pill mills were killing six or seven people a day by giving out oxycodone," Corben said.
Corben and his Rakontur films are expecting to release at least three feature-length documentaries in 2013. Dawgfight about unsanctioned street fighting has an estimated spring debut, a Cocaine Cowboys Remix using entirely new footage for the summer and the Tanning of America about the profound influence African Americans have an American popular culture. As far as any of the aforementioned news stories "If I had to pick one it would probably be the bath salts," said Corben. "Its about drugs, Miami and probably the biggest news story of the year."