Sundance: The Orchard Nabs North American Rights to 'Cartel Land' (Exclusive)

Cartel Land
'Cartel Land,' Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival

The upstart distributor also lands digital rights to the A&E IndieFilms documentary, which shines a light on the vicious Mexican drug cartels.

The Orchard has acquired North American theatrical and digital rights to Matthew Heineman's Cartel Land.

The film, from A&E IndieFilms, made its worldwide premiere last month at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Heineman received the directing award and special jury award for cinematography in the U.S. Documentary category.

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The Orchard, which made a splash at the festival with four acquisitions including the Taylor Schilling starrer The Overnight and Joe Swanberg's Digging for Fire, will release the film in theaters later this year.

"Cartel Land has been a wild adventure to make and unfolded in a way that I could never have predicted," said Heineman (Escape Fire, Our Time), who also produced the film. "I'm thrilled that The Orchard has joined the team and will be bringing our story about the conflict between idealism and violence to a broad audience."

Added The Orchard's Paul Davidson: "Cartel Land is an impressive, dramatic film that takes hold and doesn't let go until the final gripping moments. Having the opportunity to share Matt's film with audiences and partner with A&E IndieFilms on the release is a rush for all of us."

The documentary examines two 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 the border into the United States.

Cartel Land is the latest effort from A&E IndieFilms, which has produced such buzz-worthy documentaries as The Imposter and The Tillman Story.

"After an incredible reception at Sundance, we are looking forward to partnering with The Orchard to share this captivating film with theatergoers around North America," A&E IndieFilms' Molly Thompson said. "Matt's brilliant film explores a world filled with fascinating characters and an unbelievable story with unexpected twists and turns."

The film is an A&E IndieFilms presentation and a Documentary Group and Our Time Projects production in association with Whitewater Films. Tom Yellin produced on behalf of The Documentary Group, and Thompson, Robert DeBitetto and David McKillop executive produced for A&E IndieFilms.

The deal was negotiated by Danielle DiGiacomo of The Orchard and Linzee Troubh and John Sloss of Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.