Matthew Heineman has made a name for himself over the past few years hawking visceral documentaries in some of the world’s most harrowing war zones. In 2015, he brought Cartel Land to the screen, a story about drug smuggling and vigilantism that put the documentary filmmaker in the midst of fire fights and in the bellies of meth labs and torture chambers. He’s since set his sights on ISIS and a group called RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughter Silently), a guerrilla band of civilian journalists committed to exposing the horrors that have taken place since ISIS seized their hometown and made it into their de-facto capital. City of Ghosts follows the members of RBSS as they flee the omnipresent threat of ISIS, contend with the reality of their family’s being tortured and killed and still continue to do all they can to rally support against the terrorist organization dead set on dismantling everything they care about. Read More
A stirring tribute to the journalistic heroes of ‘Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered’, City of Ghosts takes us into the epicenter of Syria’s ISIS occupation where a troop of citizen journalists seek to expose the true horror tearing their world to pieces. Matthew Heineman’s immersive filmmaking peels back the curtain, crafting a definitive take on one of the world’s most horrific war zones. The personal sacrifice each of the subjects must endure – some are killed, others see their families killed in their place – is unspeakably heartbreaking but Heineman’s powerful documentary never exploits their pain for political means. Must-see investigative journalism, City of Ghosts is a terrifying vision of hell on earth. (B+) Read More
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.