"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo"

re-aired September 2018

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The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo

About the Film

Premiere Date: March 23, 2018

"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" is a genre-defying film about the life of radical Chicano lawyer, author and countercultural icon, Oscar Zeta Acosta — the basis for the character Dr. Gonzo in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," written by his friend, legendary journalist-provocateur Hunter S. Thompson.

The author of two groundbreaking autobiographical novels, "Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo" and "The Revolt of the Cockroach People," Acosta’s powerful literary voice, brash courtroom style and notorious revolutionary antics made him a revered figure within the Chicano movement, and offered one of the most brazen, frontal assaults on white supremacy seen at the time. Yet in hindsight, Acosta is more known for his turn as Thompson’s bumbling Samoan sidekick in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" than for his own work exposing racial bias, hypocrisy and repression within the California justice system.

Read more about the film below.

A Closer Look at "The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo"

More About "The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo"

Channeling the spirit of the psychedelic sixties and the joyful irreverence of “Gonzo” journalism, "The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" shows Acosta’s personal and creative evolution play out against the backdrop of a society in turmoil. From his origins in segregated rural California, to his stint as a Baptist missionary in the jungles of Panama, his radicalization in the Chicano movement of the late-60s, and finally to his mysterious disappearance off the coast of Mexico in 1974, award-winning filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez offers us a vision of a complex figure at once wholly unique, and emblematic of a generation.

Channeling Acosta’s own extravagant mythmaking, Rodriguez draws upon Acosta’s literary work; testimonies of friends, colleagues and critics; legal transcripts, and other archival materials to weave a tapestry of key moments in the man’s life and work. Actors Jesse Celedon and Jeff Harms portray Oscar Zeta Acosta and Hunter S. Thompson, while an ensemble of performers inhabit a collection of friends, foes, and fellow travelers in a series of playful recreations that go beyond a mere presentation of facts and point us toward a deeper truth.

"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" sets out to right a historical wrong, giving Acosta his due place as an imperfect, but larger-than-life figure in American history. Relevant now more than ever, this urgent, untold story probes issues of racial identity, criminal justice, politics, police brutality and media representation, while revealing the personal story of a troubled but brilliant man coming to terms with his identity and finding meaning in the struggles of his people.

"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" was produced by City Project Productions and presented by Latino Public Broadcasting. 

Major funding for "The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by Latino Public Broadcasting, California Humanities and The Office of Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo.



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