North of the border in a rural area in Arizona lives a 55-year-old American man. Far south of the border, in the Michoacán region of Mexico, lives a Mexican man of the same age. Each one has embarked on a vigilante mission to protect his family and his country from violent drug cartels—the common enemy that both feel their governments have left them to fight on their own.
Matthew Heineman’s award-winning documentary Cartel Land begins and ends in a meth lab. Between those bookends, the film immerses viewers in a world of shoot-outs and torture, scenes so dark that even Heineman says he couldn’t have imagined them when he set out to make the film. They were “vivid places,” he says, “that I never had dreamed of and wasn’t necessarily prepared for.”
Heineman initially set out to capture vigilantism on the American side of the border, after becoming obsessed with…
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