Among the whole host of nicknamed characters we are introduced to there are a host of characters that instantly grab your attention in the film, first is “Shorty” who has a calming and likable ‘live and let live’ attitude to his personal and working life while close friend and colleague “El Grande” treats the camera like a platform arguing that you don’t succeed in Mexico without being corrupt and delves into his supposed former life as a Mafioso which is fascinating stuff and the banter between them is fun, there is foreman Vicencio Martínez Vázquez who at work is a boss and reserved but off duty has long flowing hair and races horses bareback and finally there’s a morbid female night worker who manages road signs around the ongoing construction work who gives her views on the numerous dead workers that haunt the place and that she may be next and this is what make the film work with such interesting real characters with different stories and personalities.
More a look into what makes these characters tick than a study of the project itself, In The Pit never lets you forget the construction going on around them with some wonderfully filmed time lapse scenes of the construction with hundreds of workers flying around like ants whilst thousands of cars fly past as the day passes from day to night is amazing to watch. We also get a look into the safety issues that surround them and although most of the workers seem oblivious to it they work in some of the most dangerous conditions I’ve ever seen which is highlighted by a sudden downpour whilst men are working in a deep pit and it starts to fill with water and the only way out (including the film crew) is by the shovel of an excavator to lift them out, there are other moments like a worker falling down a deep hole and more sadly someone run over due to the close proximity of the workers to the roads but this is something that the workers accept and put down to their faith that the devil will let the bridge stand because of it.
Then we come to the final shot of the film, a shot so incredible and unexpected it will make your jaw drop in astonishment from it’s complete and utter beauty and stark reminder of the unending tasks these workers have to endure as we follow a long 6 minute helicopter tracking shot over the entire 10 mile stretch of motorway in production which is worth the cost of the DVD itself especially when the huge Mexican flag comes into view that dominates the skyline, the experience of appreciating the scale of something so big that’s built by so many is awe inspiring.
Overall a brilliant film that offers a look into some fantastic characters and a subject that was interesting and engaging and it’s partnered with an amazing score built from the sounds of construction that perfectly matches the documentary; In The Pit is well worth 85 minutes of your time and although it doesn’t fully satisfy with expanding more on the characters and their relationship with the freeway and each other it offers enough to make it one of the best documentaries I’ve seen and understandable that it won the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Jury Prize for Documentary in 2006.
In The Pit is released on DVD on 21st June, trailer is below.