With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND provides a riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels. In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician 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. Meanwhile, 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, winner of the Directing Award and the Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil. Director Heineman talks about an intention to present a situation that is destroying the lives of millions of people on both sides of the border that is without an easy answer and his ability to gain the trust among all the divergent factions in this multi-dimensional tale.
Winner of the Directing Award and the Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival
“A complex, harrowing documentary about drug gangs’ grip on Mexico (and the Mexican-American borderlands) that doubles as a portrait of the difficulties of grassroots revolutionary movements. ” – Paste Magazine
“Cartel Land, which tellingly won both the director and cinematography prizes at Sundance earlier this year, combines both qualities to devastating effect, like real life framed as a breathlessly paced thriller. ” – Dissolve
“The drugs war south of the border, and its impact in the U.S, has been a popular one in film in recent years, from ‘Traffic’ through ‘Breaking Bad’ to Cannes thriller ‘Sicario,’ but few have captured the complexities and horrors as well as Matthew Heineman’s film.” – IndieWire
“Documentarian Matthew Heineman embeds with vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border to show how civilians have taken it upon themselves to fight drug cartels where institutions have failed, amidst terrible violence and police corruption.” – GQ
“★ ★ ★ ★ Unfolds like a great thriller!” – Flickering Myth