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El Sicario, Room 164
A film by Gianfranco Rosi & Charles Bowden
Directed & photographed by Gianfranco Rosi
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The term sicario goes back to Roman Palestine, where a Jewish sect, the Sicarii, used concealed daggers (sicae) in their murders of Romans and their supporters. In modern language, a sicario is a professional killer or a hit man.

In an anonymous motel room on the U.S./Mexico border, a Ciudad Juárez hitman speaks. He has killed hundreds of people and is an expert in torture and kidnapping. He was simultaneously on the payroll of the Mexican drug cartels and a commander of the Chihuahua State Police. There is currently a $250,000 contract on his life and he lives as a fugitive, though he has never been charged with a crime in any country. With his face obscured by a black mesh hood, he tells his story to the camera inside the very motel room he once used to hold and torture kidnapped victims. Aided only by a magic marker and notepad, which he uses to illustrate and diagram his words, the sicario describes, in astounding detail, his life of crime, murder, abduction and torture.

"A minimalist study in maximum violence, Gianfranco Rosi's El Sicario Room 164 offers viewers the rare chance to meet a Mexican narco hitman and to live to tell the tale." —Variety

"One of the most revealing and shocking documentaries ever made about the drug trade." —Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine

"[A] chilling portrait of a country irretrievably rotting from within."—New York Times

"EL SICARIO, ROOM 164 cunningly exploits the gap between two of the primary antecedents of the documentary interview: the legal deposition and the spiritual confession." —Max Goldberg, Mubi

"Prov[es] that a static interview in a confined space has the potential to be just as cinematic as any high-tech Hollywood product." —Film Journal International

"This feature length interview is the ultimate talking head movie...and it's absolutely hypnotic" —New York Magazine

"Remarkable... Although a Frontline or 60 Minutes segment on Rosi's protagonist would doubtless contextualize the sicario's testimony with ponderous voice-over or found footage, his unadorned mixture of boastfulness, self-flagellation, and willingness to underline Mexican and U.S. bureaucrats' complicity with the bloodthirsty agenda of the "narcos" (i.e., drug traffickers) possesses a raw power that needs no embellishment." —Richard Porton, Cineaste

FIPRESCI Prize, Venice Film Festival
Biografilm Award, Venice Film Festival
Orizzonti Documentary Award, Venice Film Festival
Best Documentary, City of Lisbon Award, DocLisboa, Portugal
Best Documentary, Docaviv Film Festival, Israel
Premio Selezione, Cinema.doc, Rome, Italy
Special Mention, Viennale, Vienna, Austria
Grand Jury Prize, Open City London Documentary Film Festival, United Kingdom

84 minutes / color
Spanish with English subtitles
Release: 2011
Copyright: 2011
DVD Sale: $24.98

This DVD is sold above for home video use only. If you require a license for institutional use or Public Performance rights, click here.

Subject areas:
Biographies, Crime, Criminal Justice, Latin America, Law, Mexico, Psychology, Sociology, US & Canadian Broadcast Rights

Related Links:
View a PDF of the Film's Press Kit

El Sicario at Film Forum

Related Titles:
El Velador: From dusk to dawn Martin watches over the extravagant mausoleums of Mexico's most notorious Drug Lords.

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Last Updated January 29, 2015
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