Thursday, April 23, 2015


A Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Selection

By D.E Levine

Matthew Heineman wrote, photographed and edited this film which focuses on two separate groups of vigilantes policing different fronts of the drug war.  It's a riveting film and frankly I was surprised he made it back to New York alive, without being imprisoned by the Mexican government or killed by one of the vigilante groups.

One group is a citizen's anti-cartel paramilitary organization in Mexico known as the Autodefensas and led by Dr. Jose Manuelo Mireles..  The other group is a self-appointed border patrol in Arizona known as the Arizona Border Recon that focuses on stopping the importation of drugs and illegal aliens. The Arizona organization is led by veteran Tim "Nailer" Foley.  In both cases, Heineman ingratiated himself into the organizations and focuses on their leaders.

Filming with a small crew and accompanying both groups on patrols and actions, the viewer can justifiably fear for the filmmakers.  As the film progresses we see corruption infiltrate the Mexican group and indications of corruption on the part of the Autodefensas.  On the American side we see racist elements infiltrate the Arizona Border Recon, which adds a sense of danger and in some ways negates the groups actions.

Heineman is a self-trained filmmaker who claims to frame and shoot scenes through intuition.  The photography on this film is terrific, with subtitles for the Spanish portions.  But the filmmakers were frequently in the crossfire and the film is scary.  Even scarier is the ongoing corruption which lends credence to the fact that neither of these groups can hope to be successful if the ongoing corruption can't be eliminated.