Cartel Land


2016 Season
Amsterdam, New York

With unprecedented access, Cartel Land is a harrowing 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, a US veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon that aims to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the US border. Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vies to bring its own brutal brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. Cartel Land is a chilling meditation on the breakdown of order and a devastating portrait of what can happen when citizens take the law in their own hands.
Directing Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography, US Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2015

Listen to the HRWFF podcast with Matthew Heineman.

Matthew Heineman
Country of Production: 
In Spanish with English subtitles
Filmmaker Bio(s): 
Matthew Heineman
Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor

Matthew Heineman is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker based in New York. He directed and produced ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE, which premiered at Sundance 2012. Heineman has directed several short films and commercials and is currently developing a few different projects.

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