Wrestling Alligators

Indigenous Cultures, Native American, American Culture, Politics, Government, Business
Andrew Shea
90 minutes


Official Selection
IDFA Amsterdam
Florida Film Festival
Austin Film Festival
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival
Denver Int'l Film Festival
Palm Beach Int'l Film Festival
Salem Film Festival

Using stunning never-before-seen archival and home-movie footage, director Andrew Shea paints a revealing portrait of Seminole Indian life before and after the rise of casino gaming. - Santa Fe New Mexican

[The film's] star and unlikely moral center is James Billie, half-white chief of the Seminole Indian tribe, Vietnam veteran, country singer, nine-fingered alligator wrestler, and “the most important Indian in America. - Flickchart

An eye-opening story that is as national and even global as it is deeply local. - Flickchart



The greatest change to happen to Native Americans in the last 50 years is the creation of legalized gaming on Indian reservations, a revolution that has made self-reliance a reality for many tribes. James E. Billie, the man responsible for this revolution, born an outcast in the Florida swamps, is an alligator wrestler, warrior, poet, and leader of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. He took his people from welfare subsistence at the mercy of the federal government to being wealthy beyond their wildest imaginings. Controversial both inside and outside his tribe, James Billie has used his charm and wits to beat the white man, time and again, at their own game. Now, faced with new battles, James and his tribe once again find their way of life challenged.



Andrew Shea is a versatile, award-winning director and screenwriter who has enjoyed success in film, television and theatre. His films have premiered at several of the most prestigious and selective film festivals in the world: the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the South by Southwest Film Festival. During his years in Los Angeles Andrew also worked as a television writer. He co-wrote the television movie, Beat of a Different Drum, for ABC, Fox Television Studios and Edmonds Entertainment. He also co-wrote a drama pilot for ABC and Fox Television, The Crew, set in the world of college rowing.

Andrew is a native of New York City, which is the principal location of his 2012 documentary, Portrait of Wally, the story of a Nazi-looted painting by Egon Schiele that was discovered on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in 1997, triggering a historic court battle that pitted the Manhattan District Attorney, the United States Government and the heirs of a Viennese gallery owner against a major Austrian museum and MoMA. He is currently in production on Buzzed, a documentary about Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and the Vanity Fair cover story about Caitlyn Jenner. Andrew is also developing a new play, The Last Ironist, with longtime collaborator Mark Medoff.

Andrew has an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Art, an M.F.A. from California institute of the Arts, a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, and a B.A. from Hampshire College. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Andrew and his wife, film editor Melissa Shea, live in Austin, Texas with their two children. Andrew is a professor and the Production Area Head in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches directing and film production.


Wrestling Alligators (DVD)- Educational Use



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