El Sicario, Room 164

  • Gianfranco Rosi
  • United States, France
  • 2010
  • 84 min
  • Retrospective: Gianfranco Rosi

In the motel room where he once tortured and murdered, a Mexican hit man gives a detailed account of his work for a drug cartel, a black veil over his face to disguise his identity. Using a pad of paper and a marker, he describes the mechanisms of organized crime.

He paints a picture of the cartel as a well-oiled machine, with employees trained by the army, executives devising sophisticated strategies, and the government helping out behind the scenes—all for drugs and money. The anonymous narrator, who has now stopped working for the cartel and is on the run from his former bosses, offers a gruesomely businesslike interpretation, using drawings and sometimes demonstrating the way he manhandled victims.

The diverse methods of torture, the coldblooded refinement: the more the hit man explains, the more the dehumanization becomes evident. And not only on the part of the tortured victims, but also the desensitized cartel members. This shocking insider’s view won multiple awards at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.


  • 84 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: Spanish
  • Subtitles in: English
Gianfranco Rosi
Serge Lalou / Les Films d'Ici, Gianfranco Rosi / Robo Films
Executive producer
Olivier Daunizeau
Gianfranco Rosi
Jacopo Quadri

IDFA history

Retrospective: Gianfranco Rosi
Focus: The Villain

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IDFA history

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