I heard about Cartel Land a year or so ago when I first began researching vigilantism for my next book after Lost to the Shadows. The premise of the documentary, which follows two different vigilante groups on either side of the US/Mexico border in a struggle against the cartels, sounded really cool. Unfortunately, when I first heard about the documentary, it was still months away from release.
Good news! It’s on Netflix now! As soon as I stumbled across it, I knew I had to watch it.
Before I go any further, I do want to give everyone a heads up: a majority of it is set in Mexico, so most of the spoken language is in Spanish. There are English subtitles, of course, but I know not everyone likes watching subbed things.
With that said, the documentary itself was a little different than I expected, which wasn’t a bad thing. The most interesting part of it was watching the evolution of the Mexican group, called the Autodefensas, particularly when compared to the US group, known as the Arizona Border Recon.
Without trying to spoil anything, I’ll just say that it’s captivating and also kind of terrifying to see the level of corruption associated with anything having to do with the cartels. No one is innocent and this documentary shows just how out of control things can become if people aren’t careful.
Spoilers aside, I will admit that more than once during the documentary, I turned to Ren and commented about the impressive cahonies the cameraman has during a few of the scenes. Not only does he not back away during shootouts, but at one point, he even crawls through the weeds and brush so that he can keep filming without missing anything.
Given the subject matter, there’s obviously some violence and gore in this. Seeing as it deals with the cartels, people tell horrible stories about things that they’ve experienced and seen. There are also some pretty graphic pictures of decapitated heads and things like that. I mention this mainly because, while this is a great documentary, it’s not one I’d suggest watching while you eat dinner.
Even so, I can’t recommend this enough. Not only is it one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time, but it also tells a tragic story that will fascinate you (at least, it fascinated me) until the end.
If you know of any other good vigilante documentaries – or any other good documentaries for that matter – let me know in the comments!
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