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On Your Radar: Cartel Land
by Karen Pecota

Emmy-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman known for presenting poignant issues in modern society confronts the war on drugs. His latest documentary Cartel Land steps into the world controlled by ruthless Mexican drug cartels.

Heineman read an account of two vigilante groups both fighting against the horrific atrocities against innocent by-standers. Powerful drug lords hover over a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley--along the Mexican-Arizona border.  Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town doctor in the Mexican state of Michoacan (along Cocaine Alley), known as "El Doctor" and Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American military veteran are the groups’ leaders fighting against the cartels.

El Doctor leads the "Autodefensas,” a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Temphar drug cartel. Nailer heads up a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico's drug wars from seeping across the U.S. border.

Heineman, curious as to how one fights against the dangerous and powerful drug cartelsn takes his camera and crew to shadow Mireles and Nailer. The two explain how they run their operations in order to keep the innocent safe one more day. Impressive is their matter-of-fact honesty about the risks they take every day to push their cause forward, similar to a cat and mouse playground. Heineman views first-hand the difficulties fighting powers controlled by money and the breakdown of order.

Heineman recalls it being a grueling film to make. So many real-time situations he never dreamed to be a participant in, from street shoot-outs to filming secret meth labs in the middle of the night. He says,"It is about elemental issues of order and chaos, of the desire for but also of terrifying brutality and lawlessness." People seeking to fight evil but so often become victimized for taking the law into their own hands out of necessity. Heineman adds, "El Doctor, Nailer and the cartels each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. It's a timeless story of the conflict between idealism and violence, which has eerie echoes throughout history and across the world today."