‘Cocaine Cowboys’ filmmakers developing doc on Ukraine dirt digger, Donald Trump donor Lev Parnas
Image via House Judiciary Committee, AP.

Donald Trump Lev Parnas House Judiciary Committee AP
The film, called 'From Russia with Lev,' will delve into the convicted man's association with Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Documentarians Billy Corben, Alfred Spellman and David Cypkin of the Miami-based studio Rakontur have developed something of a tradition in recent years when it comes to their major releases.

On the eve of the last three national elections, they’ve dropped a feature film whose subject ties in one way or another to Donald Trump, his rise to the presidency and unprecedented machinations to gain and hold onto power.

First, there was “Screwball” in 2018, a true crime dramedy that on the surface is about baseball’s 2013 performance-enhancing drugs scandal but doubles as an indictment of post-truth America.

Two years later, the film was “537 Votes,” a masterful dive into the pivotal 2000 election and controversy surrounding Elián González which, while not focused explicitly on Trump, portended his infectious brand of politics.

Then in 2022, it was “God Forbid,” which details a lurid sex arrangement between evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife and a Miami Beach hotel pool attendant, the political ripples of which extended all the way to the presidency.

Their next offering, due before the 2024 election, will be their most direct look at the former President yet, a deep dive into the “untold story” of Trump’s first impeachment as told by a key player in the tale, Ukraine-born South Florida businessman Lev Parnas.

The movie, cheekily titled “From Russia with Lev,” will examine how Parnas and his business partners worked for Trump and his then-lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure officials in Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, ahead of the 2020 election.

Parnas and his associates, Igor Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin, were convicted last year of funneling a Russian tycoon’s money to U.S. candidates. The ill-routed donations included a $325,000 check to a super PAC backing Trump called America First Action Inc.

Parnas also gave large sums to Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, several GOP member of Congress and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“From Russia with Lev” will delve into the political influence of convicted businessman Lev Parnas and his ties numerous Republican politicians, including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron Desantis. Image via AP.

The documentary, which features extensive sit-down interviews with Parnas, will include footage he appears to have shot on his cell phone of meetings with Trump, who has since denied knowing him. Trump’s denial is further contradicted by dozens of photos of the two together and audio recordings Parnas shared with the House Intelligence Committee in 2019 as part of its impeachment inquiry in which Trump can be heard telling Parnas to “get rid of” former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The film will also explore Parnas’ links to DeSantis, whom he hosted fundraisers for in 2018 and gave a since-returned donation of $50,000 ahead of the Governor’s inaugural election.

DeSantis acknowledged knowing Parnas, who sought a role in his gubernatorial transition committee, but has repeatedly downplayed the quality of their relationship and denied having knowledge of any shadow diplomacy concerning Ukraine.

“From Russia with Lev” is one of several projects currently in the works at Rakontur. The team is also developing “The Last of the Cocaine Cowboys,” a four-part series centering on Medellín Cartel co-founder Carlos Lehder, who was released from a German prison in 2020 after 33 years; and a fleet of mini-documentary snapshots focused on Miami called “A Sunny Place for Shady People.”

Born of filmmaking collaborations that began while the studio’s founders were still in high school, Rakontur made its mark through a procession of deftly crafted true crime tales and sports stories about their hometown.

While Miami still features prominently in their output, there’s been a marked shift toward politics since Trump’s election. That’s deliberate, Spellman said, and is in direct response to a proliferation of “alternative facts” and misinformation in the U.S.

“There have always been debates about tax policy and foreign policy, but when you start debating whether the Earth is flat or not, you know you’re in uncharted territory. And all of a sudden in 2015 it’s like the tables were overturned and now everything’s up for grabs,” he told Florida Politics.

“At the end of the day, we’re in the truth business. We make documentaries. We make nonfiction, and we try to get as close as possible to the truth. If you look at, for example, ‘Screwball,’ that’s certainly a sports movie about Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis steroid scandal that ended his professional baseball career. But it was really a story about how the new American values in the Trump era meant that you can lie, cheat and steal and still be hired as a commentator for a baseball broadcast on ESPN … or be elected President of the United States.

“We’ve kind of seen a degradation of human decency and values that we have all admittedly embraced and that one political party made their entire brand for a period of time. I think the Trump years kind of caused us to take a bit of a turn in our work.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Dont Say FLA

    May 22, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Another idea for these guys would be looking into what Mrs Rhonda hides under those elbow length gloves. It is bruises? Needle tracks? Just age spots maybe? Or does Rhonda like her to dress up as a Disney princess at bedtime and it’s their little secret when she dresses that way during the day? That would explain Rhonda’s issue with Disney, I guess. He, like Mike Pence, is constantly trying not to think of dicks. Doing his wife cosplaying a Disney princess when Disney is pro-LGBTQCIA+, that makes Rhonda’s job of “don’t think about dicks” harder.

  • PeterH

    May 22, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    In decades past to the present the State of Florida has served three primary purposes:
    1. It’s a warm hospitable, quiet uncomplicated place for senior citizens to retire.
    2. Florida’s west coast and Orlando has been an ever expanding family friendly entertainment venue, thanks to the Disney vision and the many restaurants, hotels and other amusement parks that have piggy backed on Disney’s success and legacy.
    3. Florida is and has been a “sunny place for shady people!”

    After twenty years of failed Republican leadership….. unless Florida voters seek a major turnaround…… the first two noted items on this list will eventually disappear.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704