Cartel Land – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Matthew Heineman
Stars: Robert Hetrick
It is well known that Mexico has a collection of ruthless drug cartels that are extraordinarily powerful and in fact control the daily lives of many of the citizens of Mexico. The Mexican border with the United States is fairly porous and drugs enter the United States relatively freely across the border.
Both governments have been more or less ineffective in controlling the cartels or preventing the movement of illegal drugs crossing. The cartels are totally criminal organisations with great power which have subverted some of the institutions of the Mexican state. To live in a community under their control is to live within lawlessness. There are no laws where the cartels rule.
In the Michoacan district of Mexico a Dr. Jose Mireles with local supporters set up an organisation of vigilantes known as Autodefensas to provide security against the violent Knight’s Templar cartel which has been ruining the people’s lives for years. On the other side of the border Tim “Nailer” Foley, a US army veteran, has set up in the Altar Valley, known as Cocaine Alley, a group of vigilantes to patrol the border in order to keep the illegal drugs out as the state’s actual control of the border is weak. Both organisations have come into being because of the existence of the drug cartels and the failure of the law enforcement agencies to handle them. However these vigilante groupings are outside the law too.
In simple terms, “good” and “evil” are ever present. However given the extraordinary corrupt pressures which exist it is difficult for the “good” to remain good. Subversion lies not only with the enemies of the “good” but also from within. This documentary demonstrates that organisations which operate outside the law are just that, outside the law and however good their intentions are, they are likely not only to fail but to become part of the problem.
Heinneman provides extraordinary footage from “behind the lines” in this world of lawlessness. He bravely moves amongst the Knight’s Templars and the vigilantes, as he films over a period of about a year, the moves and counter moves of these various organisations. It is a sobering documentary. Grimly there does not appear to be a solution in sight.