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373 Ratings

Cartel Land

Directed by Matthew Heineman
United States, 2015


A physician in Michoacán, Mexico leads a citizen uprising against the drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Across the U.S. border, a veteran heads a paramilitary group working to prevent Mexico’s drug wars from entering U.S. territory.

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Cartel Land Directed by Matthew Heineman

Awards & Festivals

Academy Awards

2016 | Nominee: Best Documentary, Feature

Sundance Film Festival

2015 | 2 wins including: Documentary (Cinematography Award)

Indiewire Critics' Poll

2015 | Nominee: Best Documentary

BAFTA Awards

2016 | Nominee: Best Documentary

Many of the scenes shot in Mexico are riveting; however, Heineman’s failure to contextualize his images, provide essential information for the audience, or develop a point of view are serious problems that will result in many viewers drawing some of the same conclusions they are likely to draw from Sicario about limitless Mexican corruption and anarchy, American innocence, and the nobility of masculine, violent resistance against the cartels.
December 31, 2015
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While Heineman’s film is an interesting experiment, with pulse-pounding action throughout, its morally objectifiable construction makes it a too hard to recommend in good faith. It is surely a strong film, and one that needs to be made again and again until the world wakes up to the true situation across the Mexican border… however this isn’t the way to go about it, lacking the right sort of punch to enact change.
October 25, 2015
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As a story of talented filmmakers in over their heads in a foreign land, diving deep and capturing incredible sights but not necessarily understanding the nuances of the politics or culture at hand, it’s a fascinating, often thrilling document. Unfortunately the film also offers an ideas-piece thesis about vigilantism, intercutting footage of the autodefensas with American militia yahoos on the New Mexico border, a misfire that invalidates the film’s otherwise serviceable naive POV.
August 05, 2015
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