The Academy doc branch selected their shortlist of 15 semifinalists in December. No one, least of all documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman, who is not a frontline war reporter, expected “Cartel Land” (July 13, The Orchard) to be among the titles.
But, with nominations voting set to close Friday, January 8, it is—after the border drug wars movie broke at Sundance, where it won directing and cinematography prizes, nabbed support from director Kathryn Bigelow, scored the Tim Hetherington Award at Sheffield, and landed on the coveted DOC NYC shortlist as well. Now, “Cartel Land” will be available to its widest audience yet: it airs tonight at 10pm on A&E.
What’s the big deal? Well, Heineman will receive the International Documentary Association’s “Courage Under Fire Award,” which honors “conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth.” Last year’s Oscar winner Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”) also won this award.
How Heineman figured out his two vigilante protagonists on either side of the border, and his willingness to plunge with his tiny crew into dangerous situations yielded a remarkable portrait of two complex and charismatic characters (one American, one Mexican) worthy of a Hollywood action movie, and a shadowy underground world we do not usually get to see.
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Watch more from Matt Heineman’s IDA Screening Series Q&A for “Cartel Land” in the clips below.