Documentary Feature - Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
Cartel Land points its lens at the drug cartels in Mexico which have terrorized locals, killed innocents, and created a lucrative but dangerous industry south of the border. On both sides of the fence, vigilante groups are fighting - from within Mexico, fighting the cartels and trying to save people, from the United States, fighting to keep Mexicans from coming in, some of whom are coming from the cartels with drugs. Both groups are heavily armed.
The thing about this documentary is that it's mostly depressing because of the Sisyphean nature of the problem - both well meaning vigilante groups can keep pushing their rocks up that hill, but will never get to the top. In Mexico, the deep governmental corruption and the dissent within the leadership of the peace through protection movement are too insidious to have an impact. In the United States, it's hard to know what would have an impact, but the diversity of reasons that people are engaging in this battle - which range from the pure and authentic to the deeply racist - make for a group that is as scary and disturbing as the cartels themselves, particularly because they are heavily armed and have empowered themselves with authority that has no basis in legality or reality.
It's hard to know the point of this film, other than perhaps how utterly hopeless the situation is. As you know, when I complain of the exclusion of a worthy film from nomination, I usually take the time to point out which film for which it could have substituted. For me, The Hunting Ground was far more worthy of nomination than Cartel Land, though I can still recommend Cartel Land as an interesting and worthy movie to see. (Cartel Land is available on Netflix streaming.)