Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Matthew Heineman|
|Distributed by||The Orchard|
Cartel Land is a 2015 American documentary film directed by Matthew Heineman about the Mexican Drug War, especially vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels. The film focuses on Tim "Nailer" Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, and Dr José Mireles, a Michoacán-based physician who leads the Autodefensas. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2016.
The film focuses on two vigilante groups who form on the US-Mexican border.
In Mexico, the film focuses on José Manuel Mireles Valverde, Known locally as El Doctor. Mireles becomes fed up with the local cartel – Knights Templar Cartel. He gathers a group of citizens from the state of Michoacán, and leads an uprising, driving them out of the region.
In the US, the film follows an American veteran named Tim 'Nailer' Foley, who is forming a small paramilitary group called the Arizona Border Recon. His goal is to stop the same Mexican cartel from conducting business in the US.
Heineman got the idea for the film after reading about Arizona Border Recon in an article in Rolling Stone magazine, and then his father sent him a Wall Street Journal article about José Manuel Mireles and the Autodefensas. "The minute I read that article, I knew I wanted to create a parallel story of vigilantes on both sides of the border. I wanted to know what happens when government institutions fail and citizens feel like they have to take the law into their own hands."
Cartel Land received very positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an 90% rating based on 99 reviews, and an average rating of 7.60/10. The site's consensus states: "Raw, brutal, and bitter, Cartel Land offers a ground-level look at vigilante efforts to thwart organized crime at the Mexican–American border." On Metacritic, the film has a 76 out of 100 rating based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Cartel Land appeared on over twenty critics' lists for best documentary and best film of 2015. It was listed as the #1 documentary of 2015 by Indiewire's The Playlist and by Paste Magazine, which also named Heineman as the best new filmmaker of the year. On December 1, the film was selected as one of 15 shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Heineman won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography for the film in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary premiered. He was presented the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary by the Directors Guild of America, as well as the 2015 Courage Under Fire Award for the film by the International Documentary Association. The film was also nominated for Best Documentary at the 69th British Academy Film Awards and for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards. The film received the 2015 Documentary Film Award from the George Polk Awards in Journalism.
Awards and nominations
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Documentary Feature||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival||Audience Award||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Ashland Independent Film Festival||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Won|
|Austin Film Critics Association||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Documentary Feature||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Champs-Élysées Film Festival||Best American Feature Film||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Cinema Eye Honors Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Direction||Matthew Heineman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score||Jackson Greenberg and H. Scott Salinas||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Production||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography||Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll||Won|
|Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Film||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking||Cartel Land||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera)||Cartel Land||Won|
|Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming||Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll||Won|
|Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming||Matthew Heineman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming||Matthew Hamachek, Matthew Heineman, Bradley J. Ross, and Pax Wassermann||Nominated|
|Dallas International Film Festival||Best Feature Documentary Award||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Director's Guild of America||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary||Matthew Heineman||Won|
|Florida Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|George Polk Awards||Documentary Film of 2015||Cartel Land||Won|
|Gotham Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Hamburg Film Festival||Political Film Award||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Houston Film Critics Society Awards||Best Documentary Feature||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Indiewire Critics' Poll||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|International Documentary Association||Courage Under Fire Award||Matthew Heineman||Won|
|Italia Film Festival||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Won|
|Little Rock Film Festival||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Milwaukee Film Festival||Best Film||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Moscow International Film Festival||Best Documentary Film||Cartel Land||Won|
|New Hampshire Film Festival||Best Documentary Film||Cartel Land||Won|
|Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Phoenix Critics Circle||Best Documentary Film||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Reykjavik International Film Festival||Audience Award||Cartel Land||Won|
|San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Best Motion Picture, Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Seattle Film Critics Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Sheffield International Documentary Festival||Tim Hetherington Award||Cartel Land||Won|
|Grand Jury Award||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association||Best Documentary Film||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Stockholm Film Festival||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Sundance Film Festival||Special Jury Cinematography Award||Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll||Won|
|Directing Award||Matthew Heineman||Won|
|Vancouver Film Critics Circle||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
|Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards||Best Documentary||Cartel Land||Nominated|
- "CARTEL LAND (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 10, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
- "Cartel Land (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- "Oscars 2016 Nominations: Complete List of Nominees". Eonline. January 14, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Koo, Ryan. "Meth Labs, Machine Guns, and Bulletproof Vests: Matthew Heineman on Filming Sundance Winner 'Cartel Land'". No Film School. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- "Drug Resistance". The Economist. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
- Jaremko-Greenwold, Anya. "Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #62: Matthew Heineman Braves Mexican Drug Cartels In 'Cartel Land'". Indiewire. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- "Cartel Land". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- "Cartel Land". Metacritic.
- Staff, The Playlist. "The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015". The Playlist. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "The 20 Best Documentaries of 2015". pastemagazine.com. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "The 20 Best New Filmmakers of 2015". pastemagazine.com. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "15 Documentary Features Advance in 2015 Oscar Race". December 1, 2015. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- "Award Winners". www.sundance.org. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "'The Revenant' Director Alejandro G. Inarritu Wins DGA Movie Award".
- "31st Annual IDA Awards". International Documentary Association. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "Bafta Film Awards 2016: Nominations". BBC News. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
- "'Cartel Land' Wins George Polk Award for Documentary Film".
- Siegel, Tatiana (February 12, 2015). "Sundance: The Orchard Nabs North American Rights to 'Cartel Land' (Exclusive)". Retrieved February 13, 2015.
- "A&E IndieFilms - Cartel Land - More Info". aetv. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Los Angeles, Times Staff (January 14, 2016). "Oscars 2016: Complete list of nominees". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- "Film in 2016 | BAFTA Awards". awards.bafta.org. Retrieved January 22, 2016.