What Happens When a Doctor Decides to Battle a Drug Cartel

Cartel Land, the new documentary by director Matthew Heineman in theaters July 3, follows Dr. José Manuel Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” who leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. The above clip, exclusive to Longreads, features Mireles attempting to gather volunteers and support from one town.

Things have changed for both the Knights Templar and the vigilantes since the film’s completion. As Heineman told Variety: “Very, very quickly I realized that this story was much more complex and much more gray, that the lines between good and evil were not that clear. I became obsessed with trying to figure out what was really happening, who these guys truly were, where the movement was going, what the endgame was.”

More Stories from Mexico’s Drug War:

1. “The Hunt for El Chapo” (Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker 2014)

2. “The Murderers of Mexico” (Alma Guillermoprieto, New York Review of Books 2010)

3. “The Mistress and the Narcotraficante” (Ricardo C. Ainslie, Texas Monthly 2013)