The fields on the lush green hills are filled with rose-red flowers that the local population is harvesting. It’s an idyllic scene, until the machine guns appear. This is poppy country in the Mexican state of Guerrero, one of the biggest producers of heroin. Its destination is the United States, where heroin addiction is a real epidemic—more Americans are dying from drug overdoses than car accidents.
The Trade is a five-part miniseries that offers a nuanced and unsettling glimpse into the phases of the heroin cycle, from Guerrero, Mexico to Columbus, Ohio. Director Matthew Heineman and his team gain a surprising level of access throughout. The result is a harrowing and poignant film with the intensity of a thriller.
We meet drug baron Don Miguel, who sees himself more as a warrior against poverty than as a gangster. Meanwhile, police officers raid a dealer’s house in Ohio, a young mother dies of a fentanyl overdose, and an investigator does his utmost to discover the origin of this synthetic, heroin-like drug. At the border, smugglers prepare for the crossing—the trade brings a deadly spiral of violence, trouble and sorrow wherever it goes.