En el Hoyo (In the Pit) (Rulfo, 2006)

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With the spirit of Werner Herzog resonating through every image, director Juan Carlos Rulfo opens his film En el Hoyo (In the Pit) with a striking montage of men at work matched with a stifling score made from the sounds of daily construction life. Cramped images of cement and steel surround his Mexican worker protagonists and wide long shots of trucks carrying portions of freeway guide us into this epic and haunting tale. Ruflo, who also shot the film himself, finds the perfect subjects and locales with the diverse group of men he chooses to interview. All workers, all entrenched in the daily grind of building Mexico City’s largest freeway overpass, these men finds themselves in pits of dirt and dust, slowly doing their part to ensure the job gets done. His subjects sit atop the tall high-rises of steel cable, looking out at the world which barely glances at their artistry in motion. Ruflo goes the spiritual route in structuring his film with a number of different narrative devices – he often cuts to one of the security guards at night who has premonitions someone will die, and also to stop motion photography that speeds up the building process in a stunning way, showing the incalculable amount of people (just like his subjects) it takes to build this stretch of highway. Even while some of the subjects come off as friendly brutes, their situation is fascinating, their lives flanked by “progress” in motion which will never call attention to their sacrifice. What’s great is these men aren’t obsessed with gaining anything other than a paycheck, and it shows how the common working man really is the backbone of any successful societal venture. En el Hoyo won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize for Documentary in 2006, no doubt because of it’s glorious 35mm film images, highlighting both the lyrical quality of film over video (even when you transfer video to film), and also the hypnotic feel it adds to these lives. The film’s final multiple minute helicopter shot of the nearly finished freeway completes this transcendent tale with a universal force. Ruflo’s dedication to the working man and his often unseen role in our everyday lives is grand documentary filmmaking, an illumination of a certain steel world built upon friendship and professionalism.- Screened at the 2007 San Diego Latino Film Festival

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