Mexico. Drugs. You might think you’ve got it sussed but this is no ordinary documentary. Oscar nominated and award-winning “Cartel Land” is one of the most finest and most impacting documentary films I have seen for some time.
Matthew Heineman examines the ongoing problem between the US and Mexico border and gets into the fabric of gangland culture in Mexico, with, it would seem, unprecedented access to the divisions between gangs, civilians, vigilantes and the state.
Everybody has an agenda, but for the most part, each warring gang wants peace, apart from the drug cartels, and the government. The ongoing horror for innocents is too horrific to bear and children desensitised to brutality is something that leaves you feeling scarred. To see these children subjected to brutality of this scale on a daily basis is excruciating.
First of all there are the militia, headed by Tim Nailer Foley, whose story is very painful. One that leads him to set up camp on the Arizona border. His sole aim is to protect the US against the cartel and smugglers. José Manuel ‘El Doctor’ Mireles is up next, a Mexican citizen in Michoacán and the town’s physician who is fed up with the violence created by the drug cartels and the government who appear to have a vested interest in keeping the town corrupt. He takes matters into his own hands by setting up ‘The Templars’ with local townsmen and is undoubtedly the hero of the piece. We follow his story predominantly. He has an almost messianic quality to him, the town’s people so grateful for his help. Members of ‘The Templars’ are fully armed with guns as they take to the streets to find and take down the cartel. Upon capturing the bad guys, we see how they are dealt with, taken to a remote compound and brutally attacked until names are given up.
This incomprehensible way of living is standard but seems the most reasonable and effective way of dealing with the situation. It really is a town on fire, without much hope.
Matthew Heineman has been able to capture the humans behind the hencemen in acute storytelling and aided by stunning cinematography.
Cartel Land leaves more than a mark. Simply stunning.