Monday, August 10, 2015


"New documentary offers close-up view of violent cartels" PBS NewsHour 8/4/2015


SUMMARY:  Cartel wars have been raging for years now in Mexico, with civilians getting caught in the crossfire.  To document the struggle against these cartels, Matthew Heineman embedded with two vigilante groups.  He joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss his new documentary, “Cartel Land.”

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It’s the stuff of the nightly news, the violent drug wars in Mexico and along the U.S. border.  But the documentary “Cartel Land,” which won awards at the Sundance Film Festival for directing and cinematography, takes the viewer along on a sometimes wild and scary ride at ground level.

Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embedded himself with meth cooks, self-appointed lawmen and others.  We spoke recently at the AFI Docs Festival in Washington.

MATTHEW HEINEMAN, Director, “Cartel Land”:  For me, there’s been a lot of really wonderful documentaries, news stories, articles about the drug war, about policy, about this issue.  And I really wanted to put myself on the ground in the middle of it.

I wanted to get into places that people hadn’t seen before.  I’m not a war reporter.  I have never been in situations like this before.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You never have?


JEFFREY BROWN:  That’s exactly the kind of situation Heineman found himself in.  He tells his story through the lens of two modern-day vigilante groups, Mexicans in the state of Michoacan led by the charismatic Dr. Jose Mireles, and a paramilitary group of Americans patrolling the U.S. border led by Tim Foley of Arizona.

MATTHEW HEINEMAN:  On some level, it’s a character-driven film about these two men.  They’re both 55 years old, one living in Arizona; one in Michoacan, Mexico.  But both believe that the government has failed them.

And they both have sort of taken up arms to fight for what they believe in.  Access and trust are everything, and developing that trust with my subjects was really important, obviously especially on the Mexico side.  You know, it was really frightening.

I mean, I — you really didn’t know if you were with the good guys or the bad guys.  And very quickly, I realized that this story was a lot more complicated, that the lines between good and evil were much more blurry.
JEFFREY BROWN:  Near the end of film, one of the characters says; it’s never going to stop, period.

Is that what you came to think?

MATTHEW HEINEMAN:  I really do think this problem is cyclical.

And I do — you know, as long as there’s a demand for drugs in the States, there will be supply for drugs in Mexico and South America flowing northward.

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