What would you do if you found $2 million worth of cocaine?
Would you hand it into the police? What if you knew they were corrupt? Would you then try to sell it yourself? Stash it at your home? Or, would you bury the cocaine in the ground, and simply take your payment from the joy of having such a bizarre and incredible anecdote?
Julian, a loveable hippe who has spent his life walking barefoot, genuinely did the latter. After discovering the cocaine in the water off the beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico, he would tell anyone he met the story of how he buried it for 20 years.
Rodney Hyden, an overweight, middle-aged businessman from Florida, whose industry had collapsed in the recession, was one individual who had listened to it. Repeatedly.
In serious debt and in need of money, Rodney decided to put Julian’s story to the test and set out to go on a treasure hunt for the missing cocaine. All he needed to complete his mission was find the drugs, figure out how to get them from Puerto Rico to the USA, and then get in cahoots with the seedy drug underworld in Florida.
Of course, there were many, many, many more obstacles along the way.
Once director Theo Love learned about Rodney’s story he immediately knew it would make for a perfect documentary. The result is “White Tide: Legend Of Culebra,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.
During this time I had the chance to speak to Love about his film, which combines the speed and zip of “Goodfellas,” the intrigue, surprise and humanity of “Serial” and the morality of "The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” to create to one hell of a story.
When did you first come across this story?
I am always on the lookout for stories. I am a filmmaker so I am constantly doing Google searches. And a lot of the wildest stories come out of Florida. You never know if they are really true. So you have to do some digging. I had heard about this story about a guy that went on a treasure hunt for some cocaine. And right there I was like, ‘No way. This is as good as it comes. That’s a movie. I am going to greenlight that right away.’ So I found a number for Rodney’s construction business, I gave him a call, told him I was a filmmaker from LA, and he said, ‘I have been waiting for someone from Hollywood to give me a call.’
Was it always your idea to have Rodney act?
So, I had no idea how to tell this story. There are a lot of different ways to make a movie. Recreations, in documentaries, can be really scary. Because if they go the wrong way they can be horrible. But after I met Rodney, he told me the story sat in his living room in his chair, I just knew the best way to tell the story was for him to play him in the story. Rodney has such a unique perspective on this whole story. He laughs at himself more than anyone else. I wanted to make sure we weren’t being mean-spirited, because there are serious consequences to this story. But Rodney was always one to bring the right comedy. So we just made sure we positioned it in the right light. This was Rodney’s big acting debut. Maybe he will go on to do more after this.
Rodney feels like a great subject matter to work with, though.
I don’t endorse everything about Rodney at all. I wanted to portray him the way that he would like to present himself to the world. I tried to balance the film out with enough different perspectives to give a nuanced take on the story. One of the first questions I asked Rodney was, ‘How do you feel about what happened?’ And he said, ‘Listen, this is the stupidest thing I have done in my life. And I am not proud of it. But, it is a good story.’ And I thought that gave us permission to tell the story in a unique way that is not often in a drug heist film.
Talk about the film premiering at Tribeca.
This is a celebration weekend. We had all the cast and crew out, Rodney and his family out to watch the film. But you are of course very nervous to see how audiences will respond. And we are just thrilled with the response so far. People are really, really liking it. We made the film to make people smile. And that has been the reaction.
What was Rodney’s reaction to the film?
I was absolutely terrified to show it to them. We showed it to him a couple of weeks ago, and then they called me and said, ‘We love it! We love everything about it. Thank you for making this film.’ And that was wonderful. It is the best thing as a documentarian filmmaker when your subject loves the film.
Sadly, we’re still waiting for details on “White Tide: The Legend Of Culebra’s” wide release.