IN THE PITNR
Juan Carlos Rulfo's filmmaking is so stylish and stylized at times, In the Pit could be dismissed as a formalist exercise (note the beauty of the play of dancing headlights during the night shots). But Rulfo's larger objective to show the arduous efforts of the anonymous and faceless working people of the world is fulfilled by the personal tales that are woven into the construction story.
In the Pit observes the steady, slow formation of "The Second Deck" (from 2003 to 2005), a major urban development project. The film also looks at the lives of the workers--in particular Chavelo, a crane operator's assistant; El Guapo, an iron cable specialist; and Pedro, an ironworker. Chavelo is introverted and hard-working, El Guapo is much more open and fun-loving, and Pedro is downright cranky--yet he is the one who sings while he works!
Apart from watching the men (and some women) work on the highway addition, In the Pit follows a few of them home--living quiet lives far from the city. The overall portrait confers complexity and dignity to people usually ignored by society--and forgotten for their labors. The majestic overhead final shot (which tracks the nearly finished bridge for five full minutes) is an extraordinary testament to these dedicated souls.
Rulfo's exquisite lensing (he both directed and photographed the piece) echoes the cinéma-vérité of Frederick Wiseman: In the Pit is "fly-on-the-wall" filmmaking that captures several points of view and forces viewer interaction and response. The one major Wiseman approach missing is some kind of scene involving the government officials or city leaders initiating, commenting on or celebrating the completion of the project. In the Wiseman films, this moment usually reveals how society's bourgeoisie takes advantage of the working class.
The only other flaw is literally a tiny one: The English subtitles are italicized and in very small print. But even without understanding every word, viewers should be able to "get" In the Pit, a terrific film.