Running Time: 95min
Film Year: 2018
Category: Knight Documentary Achievement Award
“Operation Odessa” was the code name for a federal task force investigating Russian gangsters in Miami. This film gains candid interviews with key figures on both sides of the operation to tell an outrageous true crime story. It’s loaded with colorful characters and absurd details that evoke the novels of Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiassen.
At the center of the tale is the Jewish Ukranian mobster Ludwig Fainberg, known as “Tarzan.” He was a linchpin between Russian and Colombian mobsters, from his position as the proprietor of Porky’s strip club in Hialeah and Babushka restaurant in North Miami. He teamed with Juan Almeida, a high end car and boat dealer, who specialized in speedboats for drug runners, operating out of the Fort Apache Marina. Filmmaker Tiller Russell skillfully combines their interviews with FBI surveillance recordings to revisit an era of sting operations, gangland betrayals and outlandish stunts culminating in the attempt to buy a Soviet submarine for a Colombian drug cartel. “Operation Odessa” hits the jackpot of crazy South Florida stories.
This film is also featured in the 2018 Film Festival’s Knight Made in MIA Award film category.
Director: Tiller Russell
Producer: Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Sheldon Yellen
Screenwriter: Kenny Stoff
Production Company: Intellectual Property Corporation
Editor: Greg Tillman