Cocaine Cowboys II: Hustlin' with the Godmother
There is very little debate over the fact that cocaine is the scourge of the twentieth century and it is persisting well into the twenty first. Like many drugs it started out as legal with many believingly it had curative properties for a myriad of aliments. Even the globally loved soft drink Coca Cola once had this substance as part of its original formula. Although it went through a period were it was expensive leaving it as a dalliance for the rich the introduction of the cheap and easily obtainable form called crack has spread the deadly influence of this drug to the masses. It has ruined more lives that can be accurately counted and made those in on the supply side of the business extremely wealthy incredibly quickly. In 2006 film maker Billy Corben showed the darkest side of the supply side of the cocaine trade with his acclaimed documentary ‘Cocaine Cowboys’. It provided the audience with an unblinking view of the violence and corruption that accompanies the criminals responsible for the import and distribution of this drug to the United States. Many may think that this endeavor is a male dominated one and for the most part they would be correct. In his follow up film, ‘Cocaine Cowboy 2 Hustlin' With The Godmother’ Corben shows that one of the most ruthless and successful people in the cocaine trade was a woman, Griselda Blanco. She was a bad if not worse than any of her male counterparts and this film chronicles the rise and fall of this most notorious of women. She ruled her drug empire with an iron fist eliminating any and all competition and those that would stand in her way. This is a gripping story that although dark and violent is important to watch. It puts human faces on the drug lords that have been all too long glorified by Hollywood in films like ‘Scarface’ and television series such as ‘Miami Vice’.
The documentary actually follows the career of a man closely associated with Blanco, Charles Cosby. He was an admirer of her who rose to her second in command and lover. There was a reason one of the many nicknames that Blanco had was ‘Black Widow’. She had the nasty habit of disposing of men after they have served their purpose. What was released for critical preview was a very preliminary cut of the film. As such it was not possible to consider certain elements such as color balance or sound mix in this consideration. Still, even in this rough form this was a film that pulled me in. Just about everyone has someone close to them who has been affected by drugs. The ultimate story of this film is those who are at the top of the drug dealer hierarchy are among the most deployable people imaginable. In some respects a story like this can be seen as part of the American dream. Most of these people rose from abject poverty and came to this country as immigrants. Through sheer tenacity they built empires that would make millions in an extremely short time. Young people who are infatuated with this criminal enterprise due to the proliferation and glorification through films and video games would be wise to watch this film and learn the truth. This is a life that made bring immediate wealth and power but ultimately there is someone just around the corner who will sell you out, push you aside or murder you for that business. This film depicts the American dream gone completely wrong. For more information you might want to check out what happed directly on the Charles Cosby web site http://www.charlescosby.com/ .
The film begins with a long panning shot of drugs, weapons and money. Amidst them are photographs of Blanco, Cosby and their associates and families. In turn each of the photographs are morphed into cartoon sketches; a nice way to visualize how the stories of these heinous people are diluted into legends. A man driving a car is heading towards the California city of Oakland. This is where it all started for him; he is Charles Cosby and he lived what is about to be revealed to the audience. While most of the white affluent residents of the city lived in the hills the inner core of it was Brookfield which was lower to middle class African Americans. As Cosby remembers it this neighborhood was one where people looked out for each other; close knit and safe. This is where Cosby grew up as the youngest of four children. The family began to unravel when his mother discovered that his father was secretly homosexual. He was only a little over two years old when the marriage of his parents dissolved. The night that his mother confronted his father with what she knew he became violent; striking his wife in from of Charles and his siblings. From this early age violence would be just how things were for Charles. As his mother turned to alcohol and worked night shifts to make some money Charles and the other children were often left to their own devices. He has been mostly on his own from the age of seven. When he his senior year of high school crack, the most potent, addictive and deadly form of cocaine began to hit the streets. Oakland quickly became a city under siege by the new form of the drug. Charles saw how kids younger than him able to buy cars, flash money and even have their own apartments all from the sale of crack. For most of the kids turning to dealing it was simple economics; selling drugs was far more lucrative than any regular job. It was little surprise that young Charles answered the siren’s call and started to sell crack. Even when he was selling ounces of cocaine the money never seemed enough for Charles. Eventually he sent a fan letter of sorts to Griselda Blanco, who was then serving time in a federal prison. She took a liking to him and shortly he was running errands for her. Within six months she was out and the two formed an alliance. They grew closer and within a very short time they were lovers and he was nominally in charge of her $40 million a year empire. His time on the top of the world was short lived as Blanco quickly tired of Cosby and wanted to move on from him. Cosby was fortunate to get out alive.
Billy Corben does a remarkable job of presenting this documentary. He holds the narrative together brilliantly with a flair that is not often seen in a work like this. This is a must have companion piece for his first film and if possible watch them together. He uses interviews with those that have survived this time period providing a historical vantage point that is mesmerizing to listen to. The DVD release is from Magnolia and once again they come across with an independent movie that most have most likely never heard about. This is one that will pull you in.