El Sicario Room 164

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    El Sicario Room 164

    Directed by



    84 min

    • Spanish


    Venice IFF: Orizzonti

    A Juarez hit man speaks : El Sicario Room 164 is an eighty-minute documentary about a hit man. He has killed hundreds of people, is an expert in torture and kidnapping, and for many years was a commander of the state police in Chihuahua. He even received some training from the FBI. He has lived in Ciudad Juárez and has moved freely throughout Mexico and the United States. At the moment, there is a contract on his life of $250,000 and he lives as a fugitive, though he is still free and has never been charged with a crime in any country.
    The film takes place in a motel room on the U.S. / Mexico border. The sicario is highly intelligent, very articulate and all too believable. The film stems from Charles Bowden's essay "The Sicario" published in 2009 in Harper's Magazine.


    • FIPRESCI Award, Orizzonti, Venice IFF



    Gianfranco Rosi
    Jacopo Quadri
    Abraham Spector

    Director's Statement

    When we first entered Room 164, the sicario was supposed to give us a brief window into a city being devoured by murder. He likes to draw, so we gave him some pen and paper. He wants to live, so he put on a veil. It was all going to be cut and dried: a brief portrait of a murderous freak who has sent hundreds to their graves. The sicario did not answer our questions, he cast them aside as things asked by the ignorant. Days later, he’d shown us life as killing and killing as the essence of life itself. He took us into his murders and tortures, his needs, his failure and his hope for redemption. A lot of people who met the sicario died. The world we brought with us into Room 164 died. He forced us to face a world being born, one that is larger than his life or his nation. He shoved our face into the future and dared us to stop it in time. This is not magical realism, this time the bullets are not metaphors. Those days in Room 164 took control of what we had planned. The sicario taught us what we could never have imagined. That is how this film came to be.

    Gianfranco Rosi

    Gianfranco Rosi


    ...I wanted the audience to go through the same feeling as me. If people could feel what we were feeling in the room, the film could work.

    Born in Eritrea in 1964 during the country’s war of independence, he was evacuated to Italy without his family in 1977. He then lived in Rome and Istanbul before taking up studies at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York in 1984. His graduation film, BOATMAN (1993), screened at festivals like Sundance, Locarno, Toronto and Amsterdam, followed by AFTERWARDS (2001) which premiered at Venice Film Festival. BELOW SEA LEVEL, which he directed, photographed and produced, premiered in Venice in 2008 and won the Orizzonti Doc Award, the Grand Prix and Prix Des Jeunes at Cinema Du Reel Paris and was nominated for the European Film Academy Awards 2009. His documentary about Rome, SACRO GRA, won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2013. His most recent work, FIRE AT SEA (2016), was the Golden Bear winner at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

    Selected Filmography