In the line of fire

Cartel Land, Matthew Heineman’s award-winning, eye-opening documentary about the ongoing conflict on the US/Mexican border and the influence of the powerful Mexican crime cartels, examines what one participant calls “(the) imaginary line between right and wrong.”

Remarkably, the film doesn’t vilify illegal immigrants or even those who manufacture and smuggle narcotics across the border. The problem is the source. The source is the widespread influence and power of the cartels, who operate both above and below the law, managing even to infiltrate and corrupt high government.

The grizzled and grim Tim Foley heads the “Arizona  Tim Foley heads the “Arizona Border Recon,” which patrols the border from the US side. On the Mexican side, Jose Manuel Mireles has founded the “Autodefensas,” a similar patrol that works to eliminate the cartels’ influence in various villages – needless to say by any means necessary.

The charismatic Mireles becomes a folk hero … at least until the Autodefensas enters into an (unholy?) alliance with the Mexican government, which eventually leads to Mireles’ fall from grace and subsequent imprisonment.

As producer, director, editor and cinematographer, Heineman received surprising access to many of the major parties involved in this ongoing controversy – even to cartel members and drug manufacturers, who freely discuss their religious faith, although masked and brandishing automatic  personal, and none too comfortable.

Cartel Land doesn’t really look for a solution to the problem, nor does it need to. By concentrating on the problem itself – which shows very little  indication of profound change anytime in the near future – the film makes its point. (In English and Spanish with English subtitles)

Cartel Land opens Friday at a/perture cinema, Winston-Salem !

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