The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo

The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo is the chronicle of a brilliant, talented, and bold mestizo—Oscar Zeta Acosta—who, despite his extraordinary talents and accomplishments, finds himself on a collision course with an America ill-equipped to understand him.

Acosta, a fascinating and controversial writer/lawyer/activist, has been remembered in popular culture for his fictionalized appearance as sidekick Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The real Acosta, was no sidekick. The story of his life—intertwined with many of the major historical moments of the mid-twentieth century—is colorful, dramatic, and complex.

The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo spans Zeta’s life—from his early years as a dark-skinned, Mexican-American boy in Jim Crow-era California to his mysterious disappearance off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico in 1974 at the age of 39. The film depicts his rapid rise to attorney and spokesman for L.A.’s Chicano movement; his collaboration and volatile friendship with celebrity journalist Hunter S. Thompson; and his own struggles to manage restlessness and psychological instability. From his days as a Baptist preacher in the jungles of Panama, to the prisons and courtrooms of East L.A., to radical chic cocktail parties in the Hollywood Hills, to narco trafficking in a coastal Mexican town, Acosta's story unfolds among a wide array of locales and characters.

The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo consists of a one-hour documentary, a companion public radio series and a digital outreach and educational program.