Matthew Heineman’s newest documentary has already achieved awards for Best Direction and Best Cinematography at this year’s Sundance Festival, following its premiere at Sheffield Documentary Festival.
Produced by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and filmed on the border between the USA and Mexico, the piece follows Heineman as he immerses himself in Mexican citizen uprising, the Autodefensas, as well as Arizona Border Recon, the group of US armed citizens who patrol the 52-mile-long stretch of desert known as Cocaine Alley on the lookout for drug mules.
The Autodefensas are led by Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as ‘El Doctor’ who encourages villagers to fight the Knights Templar cartel who are killing their locals, while American veteran Tim “Nailer” Foley takes charge of the small paramilitary group on the American side.
The resulting film is shocking and ridden with aggression, however with sweeping shots of Arizona’s Altar Valley, equally filled with beauty. The footage therefore juxtaposes peace and violence, chaos and supposed order. The protagonists give their stories to Heineman, giving an unprecedented insight into the ruthless drug cartels of Mexico and those, supposed upstanding citizens, that fight it – questioning where the line lies between good and evil.
Cartel Land, UK release 4 September.