CARTEL LANDFrom poverty comes desperation and opportunistic turn. The mentality of, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” could not be more true in a new doc from director Matthew Heinman, Cartel Land. Mexican drug cartels are running rampant, killing innocent people in their wake, wreaking havoc on what would otherwise be hard working, peaceful folk. Infuriated by the circumstances forced up them, townspeople have taken up arms of their own and formed a group named the Autodefensa. They side step the government, who deny there is a problem at all, and capture cartel members to be handed immediately to the police. We also meet a group called the Arizona Border Recon. Mostly comprised of neo-con, anti-immigration minded men, they are able to put their politics aside to police human trafficking and cartel scouting groups. The most unprecedented footage is when the filmmakers were allowed access inside the cartels themselves. The saddest past of the doc, a lot of the present cartel members are former members of the Autodefensa. Money begets power. It remains a vicious cycle. Cartel Land gives us a real time look into the everyday struggle of the Mexican people. While constantly in true physical peril, Heinman and his crew present us with outstanding production value, balanced storytelling, and an insight to what most of us turn a blind eye to.
INDIAN POINTAs a New Yorker, post-9/11, we want to believe that we’re safer. We want to think that the heightened presence of armed guards at Grand Central means something. But, it’s the forces we don’t see that should freak us out. Did you know that just 35 miles north of Times Square is an aging nuclear power plant called Indian Point? I sure didn’t. Not scary enough for you? Alright, the government has down graded evacuation plans since the Fukushima melt down. Still no? 6% of the country’s population lives with 50 miles of the plant. You cannot outrun radiation. The plant was built in the 1950’s and has not been sufficiently updated since. This is not a one off for the plants across the country. Old technology cannot be applied fast enough for the amount of old cores we are storing on site (encased in cement). The volatility of this waste is unbelievable. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Fukushima’s waste was jostled enough to cause multiple reactor meltdown, something that the industry claims is impossible in the US. That radiation has traveled across the ocean and is now causing birth defects in California. Indian Point shows this issue from all sides; activists, journalists, plants supervisors, residents, and the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is an eye-opening doc about money Vs power. When you get the end of the film, the information provided will downright piss you off more than you ever thought possible. Indian Point should stand as a warning for us all. Complacency is the way we power our planet is no longer an option.
TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLEIn the wake of so many tragic police shootings, I posed a question to my husband, “Why don’t they just use tasers anymore?!” I recalled the infamous YouTube video “Don’t Tase Me Bro!”. Without giving much weight to the incident, when that video went viral, I, like most Americans, brushed it off as internet fodder. What I didn’t realize was just how serious this issue actually was and continues to be. In the doc Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle we learn about the origin of the one single company that created and trains law enforcement on the proper use of Tasers. These “weapons” are meant to incapacitate a subject. Unfortunately, for brother Tom and Rick Smith, tasers also kill people. The two founded Taser International in 1993 and have sold their stun gun to almost every one of the US’ 18,250 law enforcement agencies.
Between 2001 and 2012, there were 500 taser related deaths reported in the U.S. There are no regulations on the use of tasers. In the film, we are privy to dash cam footage of 23 year old Stanley Harlan. Pulled over in front of his house, the reason still unclear, he is seen complying with officers and then suddenly, off camera, he is tasered 3 times, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. As his parents look on is sheer terror, we witness Harlan’s death. In a deposition following a string of additional deaths, the Smith brothers sit smugly testifying that they have no scientific knowledge that their product contributes to anyone’s death. Ironically, in 2009, Taser International updated their training guide to reflect what they claimed they did not believe. These gentlemen and this company know they are wrong. They know the dangers of their product, but for them, their monopoly grows in spite of the deaths.
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle is raw and shocking. You will walk out shaking your head. All of that being said, this documentary is incredibly informative and well structured. On the surface, it may appear to be a propaganda piece, so let me assure it, it is well researched and definitely worth your time.
You can still catch Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle at the fest!