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FLICKS: Cartel Land

Posted on 22 July 2015 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


As Americans brace themselves for the presidential election, there is no doubt that border security will become one of the hottest topics. Beyond the political name calling, there are individuals on both sides of the fence who want a better future for their children.

Unfortunately, there are societal predators that prey upon the innocent and make life miserable for people on both sides.

The documentary Cartel Land opens with a cartel of predatory tics cooking crystal meth in the forest looking like a family found picnicking at Pioneer Park.

Spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, the patriarch acknowledges the evil of his product, but notes that people pay the cartel millions of dollars for his meth. The master criminal states, “Only God can stop us.”

The film then splits focus between north and south of the border. In Arizona, we see Tim “Nailer” Foley, a vigilante who tracks down illegal immigrants. A former drug addict, he had a moment of clarity, sobered up and felt that roaming the hills of Altar Valley was the best way to redeem himself from the past. We witness his hiking adventures.

We see Dr. Jose Mireles organize his own crime watch organization – Grupo de Autodefensa on Feb. 24, 2013. Autodefensa inspires the local population to eliminate their drug-pushing neighbors and eradicate major gangs such as the Knights Templar.

As inspiring as Dr. Mireles is, the glory gives way to government intrusion and political corruption. Cartel Land takes on a tragic tone and one sees a defeatist culture that gives into country bullies.

Director Matthew Heineman provides clarity. Though the emphasis features Dr. Mireles’s tragedy, the audience sees drug dealers cooking meth, not unlike Walter White’s cook from Breaking Bad. These details provide human complexity that goes beyond simple political rhetoric.

Cartel Land is on limited screens, but go see it. It may provide much insight before you cast your vote in 2016.

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