“Cartel Land” wins George Polk Award for documentary

Matthew Heineman's documentary about vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels has won the prestigious U.S. journalism award in the documentary film category.
February 17, 2016

Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land has won this year’s George Polk Award for Documentary Film.

The George Polk Awards are given annually by Long Island University to honor excellence in journalism. This is the second year a separate documentary award has been presented. The inaugural prize in 2015 went to Return to Homs, and honored both writer-director Talal Derki and cinematographer Orwa Nyrabia.

The award is the latest accolade for Heineman’s film, which was exec produced by The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, produced by A&E IndieFilms and focuses on vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels.

Cartel Land is among this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary features. It also won a Directors Guild of America Award in the documentary category and picked up the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary and a Special Jury Award for Cinematography for U.S. Documentary at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Cartel Land seeks to give a voice to the people of Mexico who suffer grievous harm from cartel violence and government corruption,” Heineman said in a statement. “This tremendous honor is for them, as well as over 90 journalists who have been killed since 2000 covering this conflict.”

A special screening of the doc will take place on April 6 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York.

With files from Manori Ravindran.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.