Tallgrass Film Festival Review: White Tide – The Legend of Culebra


A Northern fairy tale starts with, “once upon a time.” A southern one starts, “y’all ain’t gonna believe this shit.”

A quick question: if you knew where there was two million dollars worth of cocaine would you go get it? Find a place to fence it, maybe start planning on what to do with all that money? It’s a rough question and it might even still be one worth pondering, but that’s the point of this whole exercise. Just a hypothetical. I certainly wouldn’t. No sir or madam, I wouldn’t sell some meager possessions and hunt for the coordinates. I haven’t logged them. Not at all.

In 2012 Rodney Hyden was arrested in a parking lot with a big old bag full of cocaine. Armed agents surrounded him and he realized he had been caught in a sting. Rodney owned a construction company in Florida and lived on a large property with his wife and daughter. Business hadn’t been good and he was desperate. And more important, he had a story that drove him. One older hippie, a man in the small community he was part of, had a story that he told. When the good ol’ boys got together in the evenings this guy had planted a story in his head about some cocaine and there a dream of escape from financial woes formed.

4b77f72b00000578-0-image-a-3_1524514064007See this hippie claimed that he had been wandering a Puerto Rican beach one day while living on one of the islands and found a big old waterproof bag of nose candy. He hid it, not sure what to do, and moved it around here and there before finally burying it just to be rid of the stuff. When he returned to the US and began telling this story it was one of those wild tall tales, a huge amount of cocaine buried on a tropical island (by “huge” I mean 70 lbs of Columbian bam-bam), and people took it as such.

But not Rodney Hyden.

This documentary was one of the wildest true stories that slipped under the radar of most Americans, a tall tale that may or may not have truth behind it. Rodney found a dealer and got a price. His dealer found a transport man and Rodney had the whole setup in place. Together with an opium addict that he had met through his son, he flew to the island and hunted. And this is just the intro for this batshit insanity. Seriously, it just goes weirder from here.

Don’t look up this case before watching the doc, that would ruin so much of the fun for you and that just wouldn’t do. Twists and turns, abysmal understanding of how drug deals work, and just pure and simple obsession all lead to an inevitable end that I honestly didn’t see coming because of how director Theo Love puts this all together. It’s stunning, really.

white_tide_film_stills_4-tif_standaI caught this as the final screening of the 16th annual Tallgrass film festival and while it’s hilarious, intriguing, and gripping in its intensity I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that this is much more than a blast and a half. Nope, this is something else entirely. This is a story about stories, and the impact they have on our lives. It’s about what drives us, controls our destinies, and about what seeds can be implanted with the tall tales and yarns we spin for each other. We live in a culture of lies for entertainment, for political gain, and for social interaction. We put on airs, acting confident in our social media presences and our public lives while dreaming away our daily and nightly existence in pursuit of something better. There are plenty of lies in this film and it does not ask for your approval. No, this asks us to go for what we really believe. Rodney Hyden believed in two million bucks worth of coke and a chance for his family to escape the troubles they’d landed in (let’s be real, they had a pretty nice life going but they wanted more). And that’s the crux of the whole ordeal because this, my friends, is about the American Dream. This is about Manifest Destiny. This is about moving forward, about fighting for what you want and freaking going for it. It’s about going to war no matter what your goals are, what your competence level is, and knowing you could fail.

180420-schager-white-tide-hero_nrriwgI don’t know where this will wind up, be it Netflix or Hulu or screening in theatres, but it needs to be seen. But you have to stay back from it. Don’t let the final title card entice you. Above all you must remember – do not follow the coordinates. Don’t follow this down the rabbit hole. It’s not insanely easy to fence cocaine. It’s not like two million dollars could change your life, pull you out of debt, buy you a new house, or finance your kid’s education. It wouldn’t be an absolute game-changer in your life. You couldn’t, say, have it all turned into ones and then fill a bathtub with them so you can swim in it like Scrooge McDuck. It isn’t worth it.

Unless, of course, you think it is.

Trailer below, enjoy.

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