2nd Annual Award Presented to “Cartel Land,” with a screening at Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn, N.Y. (Feb. 25, 2016) – Cartel Land, a powerful look at vigilante groups taking on Mexican drug cartels, has won the second annual George Polk Documentary Film Award. The Oscar nominated film, directed and shot by Matthew Heineman, follows two groups, one on the Mexican side of the border and the other on the American side. Both of them assert they have been forced to marshal armed groups to protect civilians and stem drug trafficking because of a void in effective action by the two governments.
The documentary won over four others selected by a screening committee and voted upon by the judges of the George Polk Awards in journalism. It will be shown at a special screening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on the evening of April 6. After the showing, Mr. Heineman will be interviewed on stage by Richard Pearce, this year’s co-chair of the screening committee.
“Cartel Land” exemplifies the values we seek in our journalism prizes,” said John Darnton, curator of the Polk Awards. “It sheds light on a very important issue, it carries a dramatic impact, and it was undertaken at considerable risk to the filmmaker.”
The film focuses on Tim “Nailer” Foley, the tough-talking, self-styled leader of a group called Arizona Border Recon, whose members dress in military fatigues and carry weapons while patrolling the Arizona side of the border on the lookout for “scouts” of Mexican drug cartels. As counter-point, the film follows Dr. José Mireles, a lanky, charismatic doctor in the state of Michoacán in south-central Mexico who agitates, organizes and arms local citizens under the banner of a vigilante group, Autodefensas to root out the Knights Templar cartel. The two men come to very different ends.
The film, lasting an hour and forty minutes, was produced by Tom Yellin.
Last year’s Polk Documentary Film winner was “Return to Homs,” a searing account of the besieged and devastated Syrian city from writer-director Talal Derki and cinematographer Orwa Nyrabia.