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News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
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Matt Heineman ‘05 Up for Docu Oscar
This Oscar season is a good one for the College. In addition to Tom McArdle ‘91’s nomination in the Editing category, Matt Heineman ‘05’s film Cartel Land (2015) has been nominated for Best Documentary. Here’s the competition:
At the College, Matt was a history major and a recruited lacrosse player. He appeared in 47 games over four seasons,. He had wanted to teach, but Teach For America did not want him, so he and three friends embarked on a 90-day cross country trip. Matt had never picked up a video camera nor taken a film class until that point in his life, but the group visited 48 states and interviewed dozens of millennials in an effort that resulted in his first film Our Time, which he finished while working as an assistant editor for NBC Sports. Matt then offered the film to HBO, which didn’t like it enough to buy it, but admired it sufficiently to offer Matt a job. He worked for two years under director Susan Froemke and producer John Hoffman on The Alzheimer’s Project, learning his craft in the process. His next project was Escape Fire, The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare (2012), an Emmy-nominated documentary about America’s broken, costly healthcare system. He followed up with Cartel Land, which his OurTimeProjects.com website describes as follows:
With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy—the murderous Mexican drug cartels.
In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar 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 stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border. Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed.
From executive producer Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER, ZERO DARK THIRTY), CARTEL LAND is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil. At the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Heineman received both the Directing Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography in the U.S. Documentary competition.
The places I pushed myself into, the footage that I was able to get, and the positions that I found myself in by the ninth month was a lot different than the situations I would’ve felt comfortable pushing myself into the first month. For better or worse, I think that’s one of the scariest things about reporting on something like this. You’re constantly balancing the fact that you’re becoming more and more used to being in these situations while acknowledging that this complacency is what leads to bad decisions. Even though I became more and more comfortable filming in dicey situations, even though I pushed myself further and further as the film went on, you still have to have your antennas up at all times, especially in this dark and murky world of vigilantism.
What a fine example Matt is of a liberally educated person: he graduated with no film-making skills, but he obviously knew how to learn, and when his time in Hanover ended, his education in the cinema began. Of course, the knowledge that he needs to make documentaries is a great deal broader than manipulating a camera: it includes thoroughly studying a situation, earning the trust of subjects, developing and telling a story in words and images, and organizing the entire project as a business enterprise. Such abilities come from a deeper and broader education than can be obtained in film school.
Addendum: Like Cartel Land, Escape Fire was widely praised. Matt talks about his background and the latter film in a C-SPAN interview:
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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