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Acquisitions – Documentary Films

The Orchard Have Bulletproof Plan for Heineman’s “Cartel Land”

While top honors at this year’s Sundance Film Festival would go to The Wolfpack, it is Matthew Heineman’s Best Director Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography winning docu that will likely leave the more impressionable stamp from the U.S. Documentary Comp section’s offerings. Having previously nabbed Patrick Brice’s The Overnight, Joe Swanberg’s Digging for Fire, Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel’s Finders Keepers, Deadline reports that The Orchard have made Cartel Land their fourth (an impressive number) pick-up of the festival.

Gist: In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” shepherds a citizen uprising against the Knights Templar, the violent drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley—a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley—Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to halt Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.

Worth Noting: Heineman’s previous doc – Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare grabbed awards from the Full Frame and Silverdocs Doc Film Fests.

Do We Care?: Via Heineman’s guerrilla, some times way too close for comfort filmmaking, and choice in the charismatic protagonist in El Doctor, we not only gain incredible access to the south of the border’s cartel war, but the inherent, problematic issues that arise in vigilantism and state/cartel sponsored war on drugs — makes for an endlessly fascinating watch. This is a must see.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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