With unprecedented access to an evolving cartel v. vigilante situation on the US-Mexican border, director Matthew Heineman found himself on the front lines of a war that’s been brewing for decades in Cartel Lands. Told through the lens of two vigilante group leaders, Dr. José Manuel Mireles of the Mexican Autodefensas and Tim “Nailer” Foley of the US Cartel Resistance force. Both men arm themselves and work outside the confines of the state and Heineman finds himself in close quarters with these outlaws, probing their victories and defeat. His ultimate victory is in leaving the door open for his audience to assess for themselves what is right and what is wrong. Read More
Cartel Land spends most of its runtime with the men and women on either side of the US-Mexico border, but it opens amidst the men working for the cartels, gathered under cover of darkness to cook their drugs and appeal to the camera—they are people, and people have to work. After all, if God minded their little cook op, he’d smite them down right quick. And that would be that. Their peculiar bookends – given by tertiary characters with a direct hand in “polluting the populace” – provide an extra shade of depth to a documentary at first intent on chronicling the horrors perpetrated on the Mexican people in the name of the cartels that is then mixed up – like acetone, sulfuric acid and antifreeze – with the morally gray mater of self-righteous vigilantes taking up arms to protect their gente.