Cartel Land. 2015. USA. Directed by Matthew Heineman. 60 min.
Cartel Land closely follows two groups of vigilantes, on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border, that were formed to resist the brutally dangerous Mexico-based drug cartels that produce and distribute methamphetamine and control human trafficking. In Arizona, Tim Foley, the solitary leader of the Arizona Border Recon in remote Alter Valley, is joined by volunteers who stealthily patrol an area of land vulnerable to bandit activity. Across the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. José Manuel Mireles heads the Autodefensas, a large group of Mexican paramilitary fighters who match firepower with firepower to root out the Knights Templar drug cartel. Violence escalates and power dynamics shift as the lines between government soldiers, drug cartel thugs, and insurgents blur. The film’s access to subjects and front-lines action is both hair-raising and revelatory, showing (rather than analyzing) how distrust and violence go hand-in-hand. Winner, Best Cinematography, U.S. Documentary, and Best Director, U.S. Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2015.