Cartel Land

The border between USA and Mexico really only exists in the maps. In reality, and thousands of illegal firearms are smuggled to Mexico every year. Return shipments to USA contain hundreds of tons of drugs produced in Mexico and further down south. A large percentage of these shipments go through the Altar Valley in Arizona, sovaldi area widely known as Cocaine Alley.

Thousand miles away in Michoacán, Mexico, drug cartels murder at will. Masked gunmen control everything: rapes, kidnappings, all the lives and deaths in the county. Ordinary citizens have lived in fear for a long time. Now they are slowly starting to defy the cartels. Organized Autodefensa vigilante groups are freeing their communities from the death grip of the cartels – with any means necessary.

In the American side, Arizona Border Recon patrols along the border and guarding the safety day and night. This paramilitary organization was originally established to prevent illegal immigration. Now their focus has shifted to drug trafficking. The heavily armed men claim to protect their country from the cartels, but some also tout an openly racist agenda.

Matthew Heineman’s dark and clever film leads us to the grey area in the war against drugs. It is a war with a good cause, but sometimes it is fought with evil means. It is a war against the high level corruption, and a war in which governments sometimes can’t or won’t protect their citizens. And when the only justice is in your hands, what are laws really for and what are they good for?

Mikko Raatikainen / Translation: Tuomo Karvonen

Languages: Spanish, English
Subtitles: English

  • Director: Matthew Heineman
  • Country: USA, Mexico
  • Year: 2015
  • Length: 98 min
  • Age limit: K18
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Matthew Heineman, Matt Porwoll
  • Editing: Matthew Hamachek, Matthew Heineman, Bradley J. Ross, Pax Wassermann
  • Music: H. Scott Salinas, Jackson Greenberg
  • Production: Matthew Heineman/Our Time Productions, Tom Yellin/The Documentary Group


  • Cinema Sõprus: Friday 29.01 - 21:00