The Sundance Channel, aka “The Robert Redford Wants You To Recycle Channel,” is showing a second season of what they have termed “Eco Documentaries” this summer. Tonight’s entry is In the Pit, chronicling the lives of construction workers building an upper deck on Mexico City’s massive freeway system. While the Sundance Channel places this in their Eco Documentary category because it raises questions about the ethics of such huge projects and the human costs of supporting a city of nearly 9 million people (quite right, too), the film is also an interesting look at a set of workers most of us never think about. A large chunk of the workers labor overnight, and in this spooky, dangerous setting, it’s little surprise they come to believe that a sacrifice of blood is required to ensure the building is completed.
At the same time, in meeting the workers’ families and hearing about their dreams, we come to understand why they choose this risky, unpleasant path. The closing shot, a lengthy, Koyaanisqatsi-esque sweep along the length of the highway from a helicopter, is overwhelming in scope, showing how small the individual workers we meet must seem in the overall scheme of things–and yet, it’s also strangely beautiful. In much the same way, In the Pit is a more complicated film than it might seem from its description, and it was the best movie we saw at Sundance the year it screened there. Highly recommended, tonight on the Sundance Channel at (note the funky time) 10:10pm Eastern; additional showings throughout the week.