With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, on-the-ground 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, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.
Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. From executive producer Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER, ZERO DARK THIRTY), CARTEL LAND is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil. At the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Heineman received both the Directing Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography in the U.S. Documentary competition.
Director / Producer / Cinematographer / Editor
Matthew Heineman is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-nominated filmmaker based in New York. His latest film CARTEL LAND was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Heineman won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Prize for Cinematography.
The film was released theatrically nationwide by The Orchard in July 2015 and had its broadcast premiere on A&E in January 2016. Heineman won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary Award from the Director’s Guild of America for the film, as well as the Courage Under Fire Award from the International Documentary Association “in recognition of conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth.” He was also named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. In addition, Cartel Land was nominated for a Gotham Award, Critics’ Choice Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, and was recently presented with the 2015 Documentary Award by the prestigious George Polk Awards in Investigative Journalism.
Previously, he directed and produced a feature-length documentary ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. It premiered at Sundance 2012, won numerous awards at festivals across the country, and was released by Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate to critical praise in October 2012. The film premiered on CNN in March 2013, and was subsequently nominated for an Emmy.
Heineman collaborated for two years with a team at HBO on the groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated HBO series, The Alzheimer's Project, which aired in May 2009. He also directed and produced OUR TIME – a feature length documentary about what it's like to be young in today's America. Heineman has directed several short films and commercials and is in development on a few different projects.
Kathryn Bigelow is an artist of singular talent. As a film director/producer, she has crafted a singular body of work that challenges genre norms and offers viscerally stunning portraits of characters and conflicts resonant to contemporary culture.
Two time Oscar winner Bigelow most recently directed and produced the critically acclaimed, multi-Oscar-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty.” In 2009, her direction and producing of “The Hurt Locker” earned her two Oscars, for Best Picture and Director. Chronicling an unseen side of the Iraq war while revealing the soul-numbing rigors of the modern battlefield, the film was hailed by Time’s Richard Corliss as “a near perfect movie,” and deemed “a classic of fear, tension and bravery which will still be studied twenty years from now,” by the New Yorker’s David Denby.
Originally trained as a painter, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute and was invited to study at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She then entered the graduate film program at Columbia University, where she earned her master’s degree. In 2011, MoMA honored Bigelow’s work in both film and the visual arts with a showcase and exhibition entitled "Crafting Genre: Kathryn Bigelow."
Bigelow supports many environmental and animal welfare charities, in addition to the EOD Memorial Foundation, Wounded Warrior Foundation & Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation. Bigelow also recently created the Public Service Announcement Last Days, and was awarded The Humane Society of the United States Genesis Award in 2014 for Outstanding Short Film. The award cited the "impactful story-telling to call critical attention to the link between terrorism and the ivory trade and its dire consequences for elephants.
Tom Yellin is Co-Founder and President of The Documentary Group, an independent production company. The DocGroup’s projects include the ground-breaking GIRL RISING, a feature film and a global campaign to support girls’education in developing countries. Other recent projects include AMERICA IN PRIMETIME, a four part PBS series showcasing the creative minds behind the new golden age of television; the Peabody award-winning ABC News Special, TO IRAQ AND BACK; and the Academy Award nominated documentary OPERATION HOMECOMING.
Molly Thompson launched and runs A&E IndieFilms, the network’s feature documentary division. A&E IndieFilms’ productions include the Oscar-nominated, Sundance Award-winner MURDERBALL, the Oscar-nominated JESUS CAMP and the Emmy Award-winners THE TILLMA STORY and UNDER AFRICAN SKIES. Thompson executive produces the division’s original productions including: AMERICAN TEEN, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE and THE IMPOSTER. A&E IndieFilms’ most recent productions include SUPERMENSCH THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON directed by Mike Myers, and HAPPY VALLEY directed by Amir Bar-Lev. Thompson also EP'd two scripted Lifetime Films' features: LAST OF ROBIN HOOD, which premiered at TIFF in 2013 and released by Goldwyn, and the forthcoming LILA AND EVE, starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez.
Matthew Hamachek began his career working on the Oscar-nominated documentary STREET FIGHT with Marshall Curry and went on to collaborate with Curry again on RACING DREAMS (Best Documentary, Tribeca Film Festival) and IF A TREE FALLS, which won the Documentary Editing award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Hamachek went on to win the editing award at the 2013 Sundance film festival for GIDEON’S ARMY. Since then he has edited MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS about the band The National and CONSOLE WARS (executive producers Scott Rudin and Seth Rogen) about the battle between Sega and Nintendo in 90s.
BRADLEY J. ROSS
Bradley is an Emmy nominated producer and award winning editor residing in New York City. Over the last decade, he has edited and produced a variety of content for Showtime Networks, Ogilvy & Mather, MTV and Amazon Studios. Recently, Bradley co-founded Manhattan Productions, a full service production / post-production company which creates commercials, trailers, network promos, television series and feature films. In 2012, he co-produced and edited ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE, which was a Sundance Official Selection, won numerous awards across the country, and was nominated for a 2013 Emmy Award.
Pax Wassermann is a film editor and producer with twenty years in features, television and documentaries. In addition to CARTEL LAND, his documentary work includes DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, the Sally Mann documentary WHAT REMAINS, the recent films ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME and THE NOTORIOUS MR. BOUT, and WHICH WAY HOME, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009. His fiction work includes Peter Bogdanovich’s upcoming comedy SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, and Noah Buschel’s directorial debut BRINGING RAIN.
Myles Estey is a journalist, producer and editor based in Mexico City since 2010, covering the drug war, politics and underground economies across Mexico and Central America.
He has produced radio and video documentaries that have aired on Discovery, BBC, CBC, CNN and others. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Times of London, Toronto Star, Global Post, Monocle and the Guardian. And he has produced video and radio news features for CBC, BBC, PRI’s The World and Univision, and spot news and commentary for CBS, NPR and France 24.
The co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the New York-based, award-winning Makeshift Magazine, Myles leads an international, multimedia team covering creativity and ingenuity across the world’s informal economies and black markets. Prior to Mexico, Myles lived in Liberia from 2008 - 2010.
Matt Porwoll is a documentary cinematographer based in New York. CARTEL LAND is Porwoll's second collaboration with director Matthew Heineman: Emmy-nominated ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE, shot by Wolfgang Held, made its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Matt has also served as additional cinematographer on BE HERE NOW: THE ANDY WHITFIELD STORY with Academy Award-nominated director Lilibet Foster, HBO’s Emmy-nominated BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA, directed by Amy Rice and Alicia Sams, and GUNNIN’ FOR THAT #1 SPOT directed by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Recently Matt worked with cinematographer Tony Hardmon and director Ellen Goosenberg on HBO’s CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1, which was nominated for an Emmy and short listed for the 2015 Academy Awards Documentary Short Subject Category.
H. SCOTT SALINAS
Scott began his music career at the age of twelve playing guitar with reggae and blues bands on the small island of St. Croix in the Unites States Virgin Islands.
In 1993, he left his island home to major in music at Princeton University where he discovered jazz and classical music turning his whole musical world upside down. After graduating from Princeton University in 1997, he continued his education at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he concentrated in scoring for picture, graduating in 2001.
In 2002, Scott was named Grand Prize Winner in the Turner Classic Movies Young Film Composers Competition and was commissioned to compose several original scores to classic silent films such as LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH (1928) starring Lon Chaney and Loretta Young and the dark Parisian romance THE RED LILY (1924). In 2003, Scott moved his studio to Los Angeles where he has since composed music for dozens of feature films and several high profile TV shows. His most recent film work includes: HBO’s smash hit, The Newsroom, the harrowing documentary, THE SQUARE (winner of Sundance and TIFF audience awards 2013, and Oscar nominated 2014), and NBC’s new spy thriller, Allegiance premiering in 2015.
Jackson Greenberg is a composer, singer, songwriter and producer based in Los Angeles, California. Originally from Philadelphia, Greenberg’s collaboration with award winning composer H. Scott Salinas on CARTEL LAND marks his first appearance at The Sundance Film Festival. Since moving to Los Angeles, the 24-year-old Greenberg has worked with legendary artist Randy Newman, written songs for numerous others and can be seen performing his own work at venues around town. He has scored multiple festival award winning short films and composed music for national television commercials. He received his undergraduate degree in music from Princeton University and his graduate degree in composition from The Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.
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Oct 21 - Center for Latin American Studies, University of California, Berkeley ATTN: Mariana Gonzalez Insua
Oct 24 - Little Cinema at Berkshire Museum
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• Primetime Emmy Awards (Nominee): Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking,
Outstanding Directing For A Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Cinematography For A Nonfiction Program,
Outstanding Picture Editing For A Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Sound Editing For A Nonfiction Program
• Academy Award© (Nominee): Best Documentary Feature
• DGA Award (Winner): Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
• British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Nominee): Best Documentary
• Critics Choice Awards (Nominee): Best Documentary
• Cinema Eye Honors (5 Nominations): Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Feature Filmmaking, Direction, Production, Cinematography, and Original Music Score
• International Documentary Association (Winner): Courage Under Fire Award
• Gotham Independent Film Awards (Nominee): Best Documentary
• Sundance Film Festival (Winner): Best Director, Special Grand Jury Prize for Cinematography
SUNDANCE INSTITUTE - 'CARTEL LAND' and 'WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?' Lead Emmy Nominees
Cartel Land nominated for 5 Emmy Awards, including Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking!
Cartel Land nominated for the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards!
Heineman: "There’s no silver bullet in this fight. The elephant in the room in Cartel Land is, obviously, America’s voracious appetite for drugs… it’s basic supply and demand: as long as there is a demand for drugs in the states, there will be a supply of drugs in Mexico and South America, and the violence that comes from that."
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER -- HBO Directors Dialogue with Matt Heineman and Kirsten Johnson
The Close-Up Podcast Series presents a conversation with filmmaker Matthew Heineman and Kirsten Johnson on the making of Cartel Land.
Watch Matthew Heineman sit down with Business Insider to discuss how "initial assumptions about right and wrong and good and evil prove far too simplistic for this complex war."
SUNDANCE INSTITUTE -- 6 Questions on Cartel Land with Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman
The Sundance Institute catches up with Matthew Heineman a year after Cartel Land won the 2015 Sundance Documentary Directing Award and Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography.
HUFFINGTON POST -- The Gringo Who Understands Mexico's Drug War
Rafael Fernández de Castro and Rafa Fernández de Castro call Heineman "a young gringo who surprisingly grasps Mexico's impunity problem in all its dimensions. More importantly, his camera doesn't judge as much as it shows the complexity of the country's violence."
VICE sits down with Matthew Heineman and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (SICARIO) to discuss filmmaking and "the overlapping themes of their respective films."
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER -- Los Angeles Italia Fest to Honor Lady Gaga, Diane Warren
The 11th annual Italia Film Festival presents the Documentary of the Year Award to Matthew Heineman for Cartel Land!
In this BYOD highlight hosted by Ondi Timoner, "Matthew Heineman discusses documenting Mexico’s war on drugs and capturing moments of gunfire and torture...as well as the life and motivations of “El Doctor” Jose Mireles."
Matthew Heineman talks with Ted Johnson for Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM about the drug wars and America's appetite for drugs.
Matthew Heineman joins CBS This Morning to discuss how he gained access to his subjects and the dangerous challenges he faced while filming.
Matthew Heineman speaks with Nightline about the drug wars and the conflict raging along the US/Mexican border.
Listen to Larry Mantle's interview with Matthew Heineman for KPCC "FilmWeek"!
Listen to Matthew Heineman discuss the making of Cartel Land on the Brian Lehrer Show!
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS - Matthew Heineman on Making Cartel Land and
Matthew Heineman sat down with Seth Meyers to talk about Cartel Land!
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER - 'Cartel Land' Wins George Polk Award For Documentary Film
Cartel Land was awarded the 2015 Documentary Film Award by the prestigious George Polk Awards in Investigative Journalism!
Matthew Heineman wins the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary! “I hope this film will give voice to those trapped in the cycle of violence,” Heineman said in his acceptance.
Heineman is "interested in putting you in the middle of the immigration and drug war debates."
"How often do you watch a movie and wonder how many times the filmmaker’s life was actually in danger while making it? Probably not very often, right? Well, tune in to Netflix and watch director Matt Heineman’s Cartel Land, and that’ll be the very first thing you think."
Matthew Heineman wins the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary! “I hope this film will give voice to those trapped in the cycle of violence,” Heineman said in his acceptance.
ANTHEM MAGAZINE -- Matthew Heineman Bites the Bullet
Heineman: "My goal with the film was to provide a human face—an emotional and personal look—to how this violence was affecting everyday people. The response being everyday people rising up to fight back, and examining the ramifications when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands."
PoliticKING -- "Where Have All the 'Missing' Migrant Children Gone"
Matthew Heineman joined Matthew Cooke on PoliticKING to discuss Cartel Land.
Fusion sat down with Matthew Heineman to discuss his Oscar nomination, and "an audio recording from incarcerated vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, who congratulates Heineman on the film that brought the two men together."
CHARLIE ROSE -- Charlie Rose 2/1/2016
Matthew Heineman joined Charlie Rose to discuss Cartel Land.
"Heineman’s greatest achievement as a filmmaker isn’t the fact that he put himself in danger for these stories be told; it’s that he shot and edited the footage in a way that completely silences his voice, letting his subjects carry the narrative in their own words."
SCREEN DAILY - 'Cartel Land' tops iTunes charts in LatAm
Cartel Land has topped the doc charts in Argentina, Columbia, Mexico and Paraguay simultaneously on iTunes!
VARIETY - 2016 Oscar Nominee Reactions
Matthew Heineman: “I am profoundly honored by this Oscar nomination. Hopefully, it will give voice to those trapped by this senseless cycle of violence, suffering, and corruption.”
Cartel Land nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature!
Cartel Land wins Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography at the Cinema Eye Honors!
"The media circus surrounding the prison escape and recapture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, a cunning peasant farmer-turned billionaire drug lord of the famed Sinaloa Cartel, has captivated the world and, in many instances, glorified a vicious killer," writes Heineman for Variety.
Matthew Heineman nominated by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for Cartel Land!
Cartel Land nominated for Best Documentary by the British American Film and Television Academy!
Cartel Land had its broadcast premiere January 4, 2016, on A&E!
Boston Globe - Essays possessed of power
CARTEL LAND named #4 documentary of 2015! "With the thrills of a Kathryn Bigelow action movie...and with the complexity and urgency of an analytical essay, Matthew Heineman’s you-are-there documentary explores vigilantism on both sides of the Mexico-Arizona border."
Indiewire (The Playlist) - Katie Walsh's Top 15 Films of 2015
CARTEL LAND named #9 film of 2015! "The cinematography is a saturated and crystal-clear depiction of this world, with all the agonies, tumult and tragedies on both sides of the border, and every shade of gray in between. The definitive 2015 cartel film."
Twitch Film - An American Film Geek's Top 10 for 2015
CARTEL LAND named #8 film of 2015! "Jaw-droppingly, filmmaker Matthew Heineman found himself in the middle of actual fights several times, not only surviving, but emerging with impressive footage to boot."
Huffington Post - Top Ten Films of 2015
CARTEL LAND named the #8 film of 2015 -- "rarely has a documentary created such tension"!
Paste Magazine - The 20 Best New Filmmakers of 2015
Heineman named the #1 new filmmaker of 2015 by Paste Magazine! "Shot with an assured attention to dramatic compositions and edited with a swiftness that generates uneasy, suspenseful momentum, Heineman’s documentary has the electricity of an adrenalized war film."
Realscreen - Realscreen's Best of 2015
"Whether he was filming desert meth operations at twilight or documenting grisly shoot-outs, Heineman went to extreme lengths to tell a refreshingly nuanced portrait about the war on drugs."
Matthew Heineman on how he "picked up a camera and headed into the dangerous world of Mexico’s drug wars."
"Heineman sat down with Deadline’s Dominic Patten at the AwardsLine screening for the film to discuss his inspiration and the challenges of shooting in a country devastated by violence."
Heineman: "The more time I spent down there, it became this exploration and investigation of human behavior, almost like an "Animal Farm" or "Lord of the Flies." These lines between good and evil that I thought were clear became ever more blurry.”
LA Weekly - 2015’s Most Essential Documentaries
"Tear through 2015’s best nonfiction films and you’ll see the great range of the modern documentary," including "the nail-biting battle footage of Cartel Land."
Indiewire - The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015
Cartel Land named #1 Documentary of 2015 by The Playlist! "First and foremost, (Heineman's) access is incredible and the resulting film is aesthetically stunning. But the film amounts to much more than just amazing visuals. In embedding himself on the ground, Heineman captures the moral conundrum of the drug wars —namely, the intense complexities that show just how difficult it is to untangle."
Cartel Land has been nominated for a Critics' Choice Award for Best Documentary of 2015!
The Hollywood Reporter - What to Watch: 'Going Clear,' 'Hunting Ground' and 13 Other Oscar-Shortlisted Documentaries
"A double-prize winner at this year’s Sundance — (Cartel Land) scored a special jury prize and best doc director honors — the film, with some peril to the filmmakers, follows vigilante groups battling drug cartels on both sides of the Arizona/Mexico border."
Men's Journal - From 'Meru' to 'Cartel Land,' This Year's 13 Must-Watch Docs
"Cartel Land is an eye-opening look into a violent world that still menaces today, and also poses a provocative question: At what point does fighting fire with fire become the only option?"
Paste Magazine - The 20 Best Documentaries of 2015
Cartel Land named #1 doc of 2015! "Heineman’s documentary has the electricity of an adrenalized war film... (It's) the rare non-fiction work that routinely keeps one’s nerves on edge."
Cartel Land tops the iTunes documentary chart for 2015!
Online Film Critics Society - "Carol" and "Sicario" Lead the 19th OFCS Nominations
Cartel Land has been nominated for Best Documentary by the Online Film Critics Society!
Insight Crime - Cartel Land' Paints Stunning, Dark Picture of Mexico Vigilantes
""Cartel Land" is a stunning work and is among the most vivid depictions of organized crime and its effects on Mexico in any medium."
"Watching films, it’s like poetry. If you read all the poetry in the world, most of it’s terrible. But every once in a while, there’s Keats... I’ve seen maybe a dozen in the last couple of years that I think are interesting. One of them was this film in Mexico about the drug trade: Cartel Land... The film showed you something nobody else was able to."
Kathryn Bigelow was on hand to present “Cartel Land” director Matthew Heineman with the Courage Under Fire Award at the 2015 IDA Awards!
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 15 films shortlisted for the Documentary Feature category for the 88th Academy Awards -- Cartel Land made the list!
Matthew Heineman: "I originally thought I was going to be down there for one week, which turned into one month, which turned into nine months... I think what really allowed me to get in these very intimate scenes I wanted to get was time."
"Discussing the surprising complexity of what he expected to be a classic black hat vs. white hat situation," director Matthew Heineman sat down with Anne Thompson for the International Documentary Association's screening series.
POV Blog - The Action-Packed Nuance of Cartel Land
“Jaw-dropping. Intense. Compelling…One of the best documentaries of the year…It is the rare documentary that is as thrilling as a feature film but which allows for the frustrating complexity of real life. It’s the best of what documentary film should be.”
CARTEL LAND is "a remarkable portrait of two complex and charismatic characters...worthy of a Hollywood action movie."
The Hollywood Reporter - Savannah Film Fest: Directors of 9 Top 2015 Docs Discuss Challenges, Rewards of Filmmaking
"Matthew Heineman [...and eight other 2015 documentary directors] sat down with THR's Scott Feinberg on the campus of SCAD."
Cartel Land "received five nominations for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking."
CARTEL LAND "led the way with five nominations" - Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, Direction, Production, Cinematography, and Original Music Score!
Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles selected for Cinema Eye's list of The Unforgettables - "the year’s most notable and significant nonfiction film subjects."
Cartel Land nominated for Best Documentary!
"This doc from Matthew Heineman is possibly the most exciting of the lot, with an added timeliness to boot."
"The Sundance Film Festival 2015 debut by Matthew Heineman has amassed an estimated $550K in just two weeks on VOD."
The New Yorker - The Missing Story of the Drug War
“Stunning...By focussing on upstart vigilantes as they accrue power, the film reveals a reality more troubling than has been depicted by other drug-war stories.”
“Heineman stayed and stayed, until he was under the skin of this horror, cheek-by-jowl with its faces, recording its human emotions and savage reality. The result is raw and relentless film-making; truth-telling cinema that captures a dark kernel of Mexico’s nightmare like no other to date. It will stand among the great documentaries on Mexico, and the most powerful in years.”
The Independent - Cartel Land, film review
“★★★★ Astonishing…Matthew Heineman's documentary about the Mexican drug wars plays like a real-life version of some grim Sam Peckinpah Western in which violence and corruption have become endemic…as full of reversals and ironies as that of any fictional thriller.”
“★★★★ Cartel Land is one of the best and most intense documentaries you'll see in years…jaw-droppingly intense.”
“★★★★ This gripping Mexican drug war doc makes 'Breaking Bad' look like kids' TV…Unlike anything you’ve seen...Timely, thoughtful and supremely well-constructed, we’d be stunned if this isn’t the doc to beat on Oscar night.”
"CARTEL LAND is raw and relentless film-making; truth-telling cinema that captures a dark kernel of Mexico’s nightmare like no other to date. It will stand among the great documentaries on Mexico, and the most powerful in years."
"VICE spent the day with filmmaker Matthew Heineman during his first visit back to Mexico since the making of his unflinching documentary Cartel Land, which chronicles the plight of vigilante groups north and south of the border rising against gruesome drug cartels."
"After winning best director at Sundance following its premiere, director Kathryn Bigelow signed on as executive producer, boding well for its Oscar chances."
The Hollywood Reporter - Drug War Doc ‘Cartel Land’ Hits Home with Mexican Audiences
“The documentary had the second-highest per-screen average during its first week in theaters, a remarkable feat considering it went up against big Hollywood summer releases including Terminator: Genisys, Inside Out and Jurassic World.
Sacramento News & Review - Cartel Land
“Enthralling! a level-headed and unbelievably intimate piece of cinematic journalism"
Eugene Weekly - A Tale of Two Militias
"It’s difficult to think of a modern documentary as complex and well put together — not to mention as morally confounding — as Cartel Land"
Riverfront Times - Doc Reveals Unfiltered Truth About Life in Mexico's Cartel Wars
“A direct, unfiltered cinéma vérité account of the battles between drug dealers, the Mexican authorities and the small towns that exist in the crossfire."
Film Music Media - Cartel Land by H. Scott Salinas and Jackson Greenberg
“A chilling and textual score: evokes a sense of absolute dread at times, while still having this echo of humanity and life pulsing through it"
THE PLAYLIST/INDIEWIRE - 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far
“The drugs war south of the border, and its impact in the U.S, has been a popular one in film in recent years, from “Traffic” through “Breaking Bad” to Cannes thriller “Sicario,” but few have captured the complexities and horrors as well as Matthew Heineman’s film…The access that Heineman’s managed to get, from being caught in the middle of gang battles to a Mexican meth lab, is simply staggering: that he manages to produce such an aesthetically striking film, one that has images that wouldn’t be out of place in the Roger Deakins-shot “Sicario,” is almost ridiculous. And out of them, he creates a genuinely complex look not just at the battle against the cartels, but in the morality of fighting fire with fire, and of taking the law into your own hands.”
THE ECONOMIST - Drug resistance
“Harrowing…Emphatically in-the-moment, unpredictable...At once amazing and
"Stunning footage! a visceral document of the bi-national ramifications of the drug war—and the drug industry."
"The verite-style doc, which has earned plaudits for its access, contains a number of striking scenes, including one near the film’s end showcasing Mexican authorities' complicity that will do little to refute those who believe officials had a role in Guzman's escape."
Seattle Times - ‘Cartel Land’: a gripping look at vigilantes in Mexican drug war
“Raw and compelling!"
Minneapolis Star Tribune - Reviewed in Brief
“FOUR STARS Shot in times of serious danger, it balances idealism and violence, triggering an adrenaline high and a sense of soul-crushing hopelessness in the same instant."
The Stranger - It's Hard to Believe That Cartel Land Is a Documentary
"At times, it’s a little difficult to believe that Cartel Land is, in fact, a documentary. The cinematography is so crisp and gorgeous, and the level of access filmmaker Matthew Heineman got to narcos (and anti-narco vigilantes) in Mexico verges on the improbable."
IndieWIRE / Sydney’s Buzz - Matthew Heineman on Going Beyond the Headlines and Body Count in 'Cartel Land'
“Riveting! Profoundly humanistic and intellectually complex work"
New York Magazine - Movie Review: Cartel Land Investigates Vigilantism on the Mexican Border
"One of the year’s most important documentaries"
Chicago Tribune - Cartel Land
“Crackles with filmmaking savvy! Delivers the narrative propulsion and satisfaction of a first-rate fiction thriller."
“Cartel Land” puts viewers in the thick of the action on both sides of the border, with particularly vivid sequences in which Heineman’s camera ended up in shootouts and in a makeshift meth lab in the middle of the desert."
Christian Science Monitor - 'Cartel Land' is eye-opening and shows the shades of grey
“Eye-opening! there’s nothing like seeing some of this stuff up close and for real. "
GRADE A-. RIVETING. One of the more heart-pounding, morally complex documentaries of recent-years. Heineman puts his camera, and himself, on the front lines. The immersion is total.”
CRITICS PICK “The key to success in vérité documentaries is “access, access, access.” Which is what CARTEL LAND has in compelling amounts. The drug war in Mexico has resulted in numerous documentaries. CARTEL LAND is one of the most involving because of where its managed to go and what it’s managed to show us.”
“Devastating. One of the best documentaries i’ve seen this year. An extraordinary film. Matthew Heineman got unbelievable access. A tremendous achievement. This has shoot-outs that are scarier than anything I’ve seen in any fiction film.”
Philadelphia Inquirer - Cartel Land' documents dilemmas of drug trade
“A chilling glimpse into a world of violence and vigilantism. Bookending his film with interviews of masked meth lab workers cooking their stuff in big blue barrels, Heineman shows how an illegal billion-dollar drug trade has led to corruption, chaos, and carnage on both sides of the border."
Austin Chronicle - Cartel Land
"Heineman earns major props for his courage under fire while also capturing striking and indelible images."
Wall Street Journal - ‘Cartel Land’ Review: Blurring the Line Between Hero and Villain
“A Bleakly Persuasive view of a decades-long combat that respects no boundaries, and seems to hold no promises of surcease. Mr. Heineman and his colleagues have cast light into the darkness and, most valuably, dramatized the anguish of Mexico’s innocents in a lawless time.”
Arizona Republic - Cartel Land
"Beautifully shot film is about the hazy territory between questions and answers in the bloody drug wars in Mexico that bleed into Arizona."
San Francisco Chronicle - Jaw-dropping doc about vigilantes in Mexico
“Jaw-dropping. Courageous. Nothing short of spectacular. Heineman has made a film not to be missed!”
Washington Post - Cartel Land’ closely examines the entire drug ecosystem
“FASCINATING. Bristles with so much actual danger, from all sides.”
San Diego Reader - Cartel Land
“One amazing story!"
"The film is a stirring work of cinema verité, bereft of talking heads and think-tank experts. Instead, Heineman simply lets the story unfold — one in which the lines between right and wrong seem to be hopelessly blurred."
"Fascinating and riveting. The new film grabs you and nails you to your seat and forces you to look at the consequences of Breaking Bad like no fictional show ever could."
“Gripping! Beautifully shot! evokes the scared confusion of dusty Mexican towns and captures the dangerous desolation of the Arizona desert where you don't know who you might run into at night."
"Fascinating and riveting. The new film grabs you and nails you to your seat and forces you to look at the consequences of "Breaking Bad" like no fictional show ever could."
“Harrowing. Breathtaking. Spectacular. With the fast-paced intensity of a real world
“FIVE STARS! hard-edged, thought-provoking film! The epitome of documentary filmmaking"
Tucson Sentinel - 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker exposes horrors of Mexican drug war
The Boston Globe - ‘Cartel Land’ goes inside vigilante groups
““Deserves to be seen. It puts human faces and motives on an issues we tend to think about in the abstract or as a source of horrific headlines. At times, it’s as though we’ve traveled through the looking glass and are watching BREAKING BAD from the real-world side.”
"For this episode of VICE Talks Film, Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker)—who recently signed on as an executive producer of the film—sat down with filmmaker Matthew Heineman to discuss his fearless process in capturing this harrowing story and the ever-evolving world of the cartel's stranglehold on communities north and south of the border."
New York Times - Review: In ‘Cartel Land’ Documentary, Vigilantes Wage Drug Wars
“The director Matthew Heineman has a terrific eye. Serving as the primary cinematographer, he employs a run-and-gun style for much of the movie, using a lightweight digital camera that at times lurches so dramatically that you can visualize the body attached to it. Considering that Mr. Heineman landed in a few shootouts while making this documentary, both his camera moves and its pictorial quality are striking.”
AM New York - 'Cartel Land’ movie review
“Urgent and topical. Essential viewing!"
New York Daily News - 'Cartel Land' review: Documentary looks at militias fighting Mexican drug cartels
“Extraordinary. Director Matthew Heineman’s camera shows the cost of lawlessness and the power — and institutional powerlessness — of the people."
The Dissolve - Cartel Land
"A work of both stunning beauty and stunning intimacy. A breathlessly paced thriller!"
Village Voice - BORDER MILITIA DOC ‘CARTEL LAND’ IS AN ASTONISHMENT
“I originally thought that this was a very simple story, very quickly I realized that this story was much more complex and much more gray, that the lines between good and evil were not that clear."
INDIEWIRE’S THE PLAYLIST - 15 Films to See in July
"captures real-life gun fights on camera, is stunning to look at even though it was clearly made guerilla style on the fly"
Harper's Bazaar - THE CINEMA SOCIETY & THE ORCHARD HOST A SCREENING OF 'CARTEL LAND'
“Powerful, emotional 'This is a movie that's going to stay with you’"
Slant Magazine - Film Review: Cartel Land
"A stunning work of war reportage nestled within a creaky study of ideological purity, Cartel Land reveals the extent of the chaos and corruption infecting Mexico's drug war."
New York Times - Documentary Filmmakers Talk About Manipulation in Their Work
"One particular outbreak of gunfire that begins when Mr. Heineman is in the back of a car is as slick as anything in a big-budget Hollywood production."
"I think we all think the drug war is a big issue, and to see a film that really delves into it and to see how it affects people on both sides of the border is really fascinating. And exciting! It’s informative and a thrill ride.”
"More shocking than any fiction.”
"Cartel Land is skillfully balanced. The film is crisply photographed and tightly edited, both of which are essential to navigating so much narrative chaos and moral anarchy."
Entertainment Weekly - Cartel Land: EW review
“Grade A! Remarkable! What makes the vérité-style Cartel Land so chilling is its street-level immediacy and the filmmaker’s warts-and-all portrait of these so-called do-gooders—they’re no saints."
Paste Magazine - Cartel Land
"A complex, harrowing documentary about drug gangs’ grip on Mexico (and the Mexican-American borderlands) that doubles as a portrait of the difficulties of grassroots revolutionary movements."
The Dissolve - Cartel Land
"Cartel Land, which tellingly won both the director and cinematography prizes at Sundance earlier this year, combines both qualities to devastating effect, like real life framed as a breathlessly paced thriller."
INDIEWIRE: The Playlist - The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far
"The drugs war south of the border, and its impact in the U.S, has been a popular one in film in recent years, from 'Traffic' through 'Breaking Bad' to Cannes thriller 'Sicario,' but few have captured the complexities and horrors as well as Matthew Heineman’s film."
Backstage - 5 Free Talkbacks With Film Visionaries
"Dubbed a “classic Western set in the 21st century,” “Cartel Land” follows the vigilantes on both sides of the Mexican-American border, and is likely to be on everyone’s mind come awards season."
Popmatters.com - “‘Cartel Land’ and the Never-Ending Story of the Drug War”
"Gorgeous! Beautifully filmed and fiercely evocative"
FLICKERING MYTH - “Sheffield Doc/Fest Review - Cartel Land”
"★ ★ ★ ★ Unfolds like a great thriller!"
Paste Magazine - In Recap: Sheffield Doc/Fest
"Border thriller Cartel Land, deserved winner of Doc/Fest’s crusading Tim Hetherington Award, is a crushing story of what you already suspected about violence and corruption in Mexico."
HOY - Cartel Land: The War On Drugs
"Intense and intimate portrait of the world of drug cartels in Michoacan."
News Blaze - Cartel Land Review: A Mexican Robin Hood Story
"High-drama documentary filmed by an intrepid filmmaker who literally put himself in the firing line to tell his tale."
"Executive-produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Matthew Heineman's "Cartel Land"examines two citizens' vigilante groups."
Washingtonian - Five Can’t-Miss Flicks at AFI-Docs
"Incredible access for a tale about vigilantism, justice, and danger."
"A compelling exploration of both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border wars."
"It is powerfully visceral and engaging: its setting evokes a classic western movie, frontier lands and charismatic cowboys, but here the characters are painfully real, as are their battles."
“This July, VICE will partner with The Orchard to promote the release of Cartel Land—a Sundance Award–winning documentary about two vigilante groups and their shared enemy, the drug cartels who wreak havoc on their towns.”
“Essential viewing! A profound, deeply disturbing, and unbelievably intense documentary tackling an issue that’s all too current.”
“A visionary masterpiece! An incredible documentation of a devastating situation that deserves the acclaim it has since achieved.”
The Playlist / IndieWIRE - Watch: Trailer For Sundance Award Winning Documentary 'Cartel Land,' Executive Produced By Kathryn Bigelow
MovieMaker - Seattle International Film Festival 2015, Part One
“Cartel Land, the fascinating, infuriating documentary by Matthew Heineman, plunges us into the Mexican drugs wars without judgment or subjective bias.”
Newsweek - The Best Documentaries of 2015 (So Far)
“Cartel Land isn’t only about the excitement of battle between good and evil, it’s also a study of how weirdly relative good and evil can be—and how sometimes they’re almost indistinguishable. At times, Cartel Land feels like Breaking Bad in real life, with characters even more complicated and controversial than Walter White.”
Entertainment Weekly - Kathryn Bigelow comes on as executive producer of Cartel Land
“This is filmmaking at its most potent, raw and visceral,” Bigelow said in a statement to EW. “Cartel Land invites you into the drug war and the unimaginable horror at its heart. A brilliant and cogent object lesson for all who want to stay informed. This is a powerful and important film of which I am proud to be a part.”
“Documentarian Matthew Heineman embeds with vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border to show how civilians have taken it upon themselves to fight drug cartels where institutions have failed, amidst terrible violence and police corruption.”
Creative Planet Network - Capturing Conflict and Conflicting Perspectives
“Filmmaker Matthew Heineman didn’t set out to put himself in the middle of a standoff between the Mexican military and a heavily armed vigilante group. Nor did he intend to spend any time crouched inside a car taking fire from members of a drug cartel. But his work on the feature documentary Cartel Land took him into both of those situations—and more.”
Rolling Stone - Alt-Summer Movie Preview 2015: Docs, 'Dope' and Demented Flicks
“Matthew Heineman's documentary starts out as a chronicle of everyday people taking on a national scourge; it ends up asking viewers to decide whether vigilantism produces folk heroes or merely a different kind of predator, and reminding us that to live outside the law, you must be honest.”
“The festival will open with a fundraising benefit night featuring Matthew Heineman's CARTEL LAND.”
Eye For Film - Review: Cartel Land
“One person's armed vigilante is another person's guardian angel and the border between these two ideas is wafer thin and easily crossed as Matthew Heineman's beautifully shot and probing documentary shows.”
IndieWIRE - The Ten Must See Documentaries
“A stark and immersive look at life in the battlefield in the war on drugs.”
“Award-winning director Matthew Heineman joins to talk about his new documentary.”
“I found myself in really dicey situations; shoot-outs, meth labs, torture cells.”
Time Magazine - Watch a Clip From Modern Day Vigilante Documentary Cartel Land
“The story the film tells isn't the simple heroes-and-villians take he originally set out to make. The more time he spent on the border, the more once-simple contrasts devolved into shades of gray.”
“Cartel Land paints a portrait of vigilantism that is both galvanizing and deeply troubling.”
"EXPLOSIVE. The director’s access has ensured that we get scenes of startling, real-life violence and hair-raising suspense. Heineman wants to thrill us and shock us into awareness. In that, he succeeds marvelously.”
AM New York - Documentaries To See At The Tribeca Film Festival
“A must see! A sprawling look at the life on the front lines of the war against drug cartels in Mexico”
The Dissolve - Crossing Borders At True/False 2015
“Ride-along documentaries don't get any more dangerous than Matthew Heineman's Cartel Land, a chilling cross-border exploration of vigilantes trying to fight a drug war their government can't win on their own”
Tribeca Film Festival - Here Are The Films In The 2015 Festival Spotlight Section
The Hollywood Reporter - Frightening Doc On Arizona's Lack of Border Control
“Spellbinding! Heineman vaults us into a true heart of darkness.”
The Hollywood Reporter - Frightening Doc On Arizona's Lack of Border Control
“Spellbinding! Captures the mayhem and malice in the lands ravaged by the cartels.”
“A tense, cinematically-styled verite documentary about the Mexican drug wars, Matthew Heineman's Cartel Land was one of the big winners at Sundance this year, nabbing both the Directing and Cinematography Awards.”
Paste Magazine - The 10 Best Films of Sundance 2015
“Cartel Land is staggering, stunning. The best documentary I’ve seen in a very long time.”
Village Voice - The Fifteen Sundance 2015 Films You Need to Know
"Heart attack inducing."
"Riveting...The film plays more like a drama than a non-fiction film."
“It's reasonable to feel assured that at least one of Sundance's docs will end up an Oscar nominee, if not two, three, four or all five...we'd give "Going Clear," "Best of Enemies," "The Wolfpack" and "Cartel Land" the very early upper hand."
"Plays like staged battles seen in modern war movies such as The Hurt Locker or American Sniper."
Vulture - The 18 Best Films From Sundance 2015
"Access, access, access is the driving force in Matthew Heineman's astonishing documentary."
Twitch Film - Sundance 2015 Review: 'Cartel Land' a Moral Quagmire
"An astonishing journalistic achievement, the film brilliantly follows the trajectory of the story down a path that's as shocking as it is nihilistic. With sequences right out of a war film...This is a film that's both timely and timeless, an examination of what appears to be an unassailable cycle of awfulness."
Huffington Post - Sundance So Far
"Heineman directs the movie so that it almost doesn't feel like a documentary, largely thanks its beautiful cinematography."
Collider - Cartel Land Review
"Brilliant, incredible, dark, and all-too-current...the movie feels almost like an action-thriller...with the force of a punch right in the heart...a tight, dark, and powerful narrative that's almost too dramatic to be true."
"A chilling, heart-pounding, hell-ride into the front lines of battle… Aesthetically, it is a vibrant, electrifying work, with stunning visuals and a sure hand…Heineman, in placing himself in such danger, has managed to create a remarkable and distinctive film that takes on a difficult issue that cannot be so conveniently remedied or ignored."
Screen Daily - 'Cartel Land'
"Deftly edited, and filmed with a feel for the deadly volatility of drug violence."
Whatnottodoc.com - 2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: CARTEL LAND
"Heineman is on the front lines to chronicle a war of fascinating, shifting morality and provocative developments which more than once upend the audience's expectations, making this far more than a standard David vs Goliath story."
Wall Street Journal - 2015 Sundance Film Festival Unveils Films in Competition
"The work was very powerful this year, with new levels of boldness and intensity coming from the independent film world. You feel it." -- John Cooper
Los Angeles Times - Sundance: Slate
"The U.S documentary competition will showcase Matthew Heineman's "Cartel Land," a story about powerful drug cartels set on both sides of the U.S-Mexican border."
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