Cartel Land is a bone chilling and gripping, “on-the-ground” documentary about two modern-day vigilante groups fighting to stave off the murderous Mexican drug cartels.In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician is known as “El Doctor,” leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years.In Arizona’s Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed.
CARTEL LAND is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil.The film examines the cause and effect of multiple issues (Poverty, Corruption, Greed, Good Vs. Evil) and successfully demonstrates their interconnectedness and effect on the people in the documentary. I think the decisions Heineman had to make were first risking his own life to capture the footage needed to tell the story effectively.In order to visually show us what was going on rather than just tell us with a lot of talking heads. Another decision Heineman made was to show the good and not so good side of the subjects in the film. A form of contradictions in character. Which made me question and ponder about the real intentions of their actions.For example, one was when Mireles’ orders one of his men to “put into the ground” one of the captured cartel members. Another moment, when Mireles’ courts a young woman. A Third was when the members of the auto-defenses group begin to cross the line from vigilante to criminal. Kathryn Ann Bigelow interviews Heineman for “ViceTalksFilm” Episode about Cartel Land http://goo.gl/hRFW0G
In the interview, Heineman talks about how he was inspired to make the film after reading a newspaper article about how everyday civilians took a stand against the cartels in Mexico. Heineman talks about his research and approach, and how he had to gain the trust of Nailer, a leader of a paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, and then shot with them for 4 to 5 months on location in Arizona.The cinematography is breathtaking, taking in a hybrid cinematic, hand held cinema verité style, that gives this film a very immediate and cinematic feel. The use of aerial shots and dolly shots add production value and make you feel you are there.