Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin

With El Chapo in the news as well as Donald Trump’s continued talk of closing off the border, it’s not a surprise “Cartel Land” shows up in the Best Documentary Feature category. It’s timely. Unfortunately, it also feels unfinished and lacking in both the regards mentioned. The film work is impressive and the complete access to people in good ways and in bad help to balance out the messaging. We are privy to both sides of the border and their efforts to push out the cartel. On the Mexican side, we have José Manuel Mireles and the Autodefensas, who work with townspeople to flush out the cartel and to keep the corrupt Army from working in their own best interests. On the American side, Tim “Nailer” Foley and the Arizona Border Recon offer help to the border patrol who are not equipped to handle the volume of traffickers coming over the border illegally. Although they all seem to be fighting for what’s right, they are also human beings and have flaws in themselves that make it difficult to completely side with them. And the documentary brings these to light and lets you decide how you feel, rather than telling you.

The reason it feels unfinished is because there is no real resolution. We are left with an ambiguous ending that offers no real course of action and no real ground is made. Perhaps that was the film-makers intention, but it still feels as though this film would have benefited from a few more years of collecting footage and tracking the course of these interesting men. Instead, it feels like a snapshot.

What’s its competition? “Cartel Land” falls somewhere in the middle of all these documentaries. “Amy” and “The Look Of Silence” are the clear front-runners while the Netflix Original Docs, “What Happened Miss Simone?” and “Winter On Fire” both feel like they fall more to the bottom. The concept of “Cartel Land” felt like it was enough to win, but the execution didn’t quite get there and for that it did not feel special enough to be considered a front-runner. Having not won much in terms of critics awards and supplementary award ceremonies, the chances for “Cartel Land” seem pretty slim.

Previous nominations? These are the first Academy Award nominations for Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin.

“Cartel Land” (2015) Trailer:

amy lookofsilence whathappenedmisssimone winteronfire

// Produced by Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin //Directed by Matthew Heineman //
// Dated Viewed: Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 // NETFLIX STREAMING //  35 films – 41 days //

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