Roger Deakins & Matthew Heineman Discuss Mexican Drug Wars & Their Work In 'Sicario' & 'Cartel Land'!

By Nita Deshmukh. Posted on April 26, 2016

cinematographer helps the director shape a film and is instrumental in bringing his/her vision on the screen. It is therefore essential for a director and cinematographer to understand each other's thoughts and be on the same wavelength.

It is quite interesting to see two talented technicians come together to discuss their work. The discussion gets more exciting when both share the same expertise and have worked on features that offer different yet equally engaging perspectives on the same subject. Two such individuals are Roger Deakins and Matthew Heineman, who shot Sicario and Cartel Land respectively - two of the most acclaimed films of last year, both dealing with the politics of the Mexican drug cartels.

Sicario was a dark thriller set against the backdrop of the Mexican drug mafia, while Cartel Land was a documentary based on the true story of José Manuel 'El Doctor' Mireles - a physician based in Michoacán, Mexico who has been leading a citizen uprising against the drug cartel prevalent in these regions for several years.  

The legendary Roger Deakins who has shot No Country for Old Men, Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption among other films, received his 13th Oscar nomination for Sicario, while this was the first Oscar nod for Heineman. Interestingly Heineman has directed as well as shot Cartel Land. 

In a video hosted by VICE, Roger Deakins and Matthew Heineman came together to discuss the overlapping themes of their respective films, their body of work, the difficulties they faced while shooting in Mexico and more.

It is interesting to hear how Deakins who started his career with television docus envies yet admires Heineman. In Deakins' opinion, both movies face a similar dilemma and yet tell the same story in a different way. In Sicario, the land of Mexico became the character. When the crew got to New Mexico, it was the rainy season due to which the landscape offered an amazing and unbelievable sky line.

Many people were of the opinion that most of the landscape and skyline shots in the film involved CG to which Deakins retorts “It’s Not!”. Similarly in Cartel Land, Heineman says he established the mood of the documentary by shooting the landscape.

Further Heineman admits that he had no idea about how the story and its characters would unfold and shooting Cartel Land, was an exploration for him. And as Deakins admits in his own words, “ any understanding that I have of this world is through the documentaries I have worked on”.

It surely is an engrossing conversation which no filmmaker or cinematographer should miss out on. If you haven't watched Sicario and Cartel Land yet, then this conversation will surely entice you too watch them at the earliest.

You can check out the other equally interesting videos hosted by Vice here.


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