Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  84 minutes
Date:  2011
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Spanish / English subtitles
Grade level: 10-12, COLLEGE, ADULT
Color/BW:  Color
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El Sicario, Room 164

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The story of a hitman for the drug cartels, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

El Sicario, Room 164

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 Juarez 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


Main credits

Rosi, Gianfranco (Director)
Rosi, Gianfranco (Cinematographer)
Rosi, Gianfranco (Film editor)
Bowden, Charles (aut)
Bowden, Charles (Producer)
Quadri, Jacopo (Film editor)
Lalou, Serge (Producer)
Spector, Abraham (Composer)

Other credits

Director/photographer, Gainfranco Rosi; editor, Jacopo Quadri; producers, Serge Lalou, Gianfranco Rosi; co-producer, Charles Bowden; original score, Abraham Spector.

Distributor credits

A film by Gianfranco Rosi and Charles Bowden
Directed and photographed by Gianfranco Rosi

Docuseek2 subjects

Crime and Criminals
Criminal Justice, Law and Legal Studies
Latino and Hispanic Studies
Social Psychology
Latin American Studies

Distributor subjects

Criminal Justice
Latin America
US and Canadian Broadcast Rights


True Crime; Ciudad Juarez; Charles Bowden; El Sicario; sicario; hitman; hit-man; Mexican; narco trafficers; drug dealers; drug trade; crime; criminals; killers; drug; drugs; kidnapping; murder; violence; torture; Juarez; documentary; film; video; DVD; "El Sicario; Room 164"; Icarus Films;

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