Concentrating on the construction workers building the upper-deck to Mexico City’s immense Periferico highway, Juan Carlos Rulfo’s In the Pit is a documentary defined by symbiosis, its melding of musical instruments with construction site sounds (clanging jackhammers, crunching iron, screeching machinery) a sonic reflection of its portrait of men becoming intimately, inextricably associated with their artificial creation. Shot between 2003 and 2005, the film focuses on a group of workers either stuck toiling away in a giant concrete hole or atop towering columns designed to support the elevated freeway, the apparent lack of safety measures hinting at the precariousness of their professional (as well as personal) lives. Working-class men who dream of something better as they try to keep food on the table, In the Pit‘s speakers offer a variety of unvarnished (optimistic and cynical) perspectives on their situation, with crane operator Chavelo’s soft-spoken diligence contrasted with mason El Grande’s verbose anger and disappointment—and, in his wistful discussion of past fun with hookers and cocaine, resentment as well. Commenting (with a heavy dose of heaven-and-hell religiosity) on the many lives lost at the site, a traffic officer remarks that many souls are embedded in the construction. It’s a notion that Rulfo embraces, while also matter-of-factly highlighting—via shots of a worker (“El Voyeur”) trying to catch glimpses of women’s panties in the cars passing by below, and in a scene of Chavelo missing the bus and thus being forced to walk home—the fact that the men are risking life and limb to erect a structure many of them will never use. The film isn’t, however, an overt critique of socio-economic divides as it is simply a compassionate attempt to shine a light on its subjects’ individuality and basic humanity, culminating with a six-minute aerial shot traversing the entire freeway that pays tribute to their toil by elucidating—with hypnotic beauty—the sheer scope of their architectural achievement.
- Kino International
- 84 min
- Juan Carlos Rulfo
- Chavelo, El Grande, El Guapo, Vicencio, Pedro, Tomas
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