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According to Mexican legend, for every bridge being built, the devil asks for one soul—just to guarantee the bridge's durability. Award-winning filmmaker Juan Carlos Rulfo documents the creation of the Second Deck—a mammoth elevated freeway circling Mexico City that rises above working class neighborhoods. A major urban project set to transform the city, the architectural structure also has a profound impact on the workers' daily lives. The film's music and astounding time-lapse photography help create an atmosphere where the cacophony of the cranes, jackhammers, handsaws on wood, voices of the workers and songs form a singular musical story reflecting the drama of this enterprise.
 

  In the Pit


My full name is Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Perez Rulfo Aparicio, but as you could imagine, it’s a little difficult to use it. That’s why I chose Juan Carlos Rulfo.

I was born on January 24, 1964, in Mexico City. My father was a writer and my mother has always liked plants and dogs. I like the combination of the two life experiences. The result is something like waiting peacefully for rainy days.

I live in the city—Mexico City is a huge city, but its size was not the reason I couldn’t see it all; most of the time I was searching outside of it, as usual. One day my father died. That day was the beginning of something very important in my life. I don’t wish that kind of experience on anyone, but it is indeed a very deep and important one. From that very moment I started to look out for things that could disappear: stories, persons, pictures…the kind of phenomena that means time and memory. Since then I’ve made a couple of films about old people who are my relatives, just because I like to listen to their stories. The first was a short film about my grandfather, Grandfather Cheno and Other Stories. The second was a long feature on my father, and now this film is about my own place—the city.

I like to search where no one else would think to look. However, sometimes I don’t know how to look because I don’t know how to see. I enjoy going unnoticed. When I am unseen, I see best.

All of these thoughts came to mind in March 2004, as I made casual visits to the workers who were constructing the second level of the Periférico freeway, better known among Mexico City’s inhabitants as The Second Deck. I shared unexpected moments and conversations with these workers, men and women who work night and day, in the heat and in the cold, among curses, compliments and catcalls, but mostly among the indifference, and above all the irritation of those who use these routes to get to their destinations. Indeed, this construction site has caused traffic jams and foul moods, floods, accidents and even deaths, but what is undeniable is that this urban monument will last for much longer than the feelings it provokes. Designs never before seen in the engineering of Mexico City that shall endure much longer than any of us can imagine. However visually rich it may be, this is only the construction aspect of the film, and what constitutes the heart and soul of this project are the lives that permeate the construction. Through them we perceive the city in which we live, how close and how very far away we are from ourselves. In the workers’ own words, this is a laboratory full of feelings and anecdotes, full of comedy and drama. This is the inside of The Second Deck.

In this film you are not going to learn how many columns were constructed, or how much it has cost; this film comes from the desire to watch this world, to go further than the concept of “working class” and to break prejudices. The catalogued “working class” watches itself either with disrespect or with compassion, and this film is a contemplative, respectful and beloved journey into a world full of fresh, vital and entertaining stories, full of dignity and liberty. All around the world we can find workers—miners, farmers, etc.—and we can imagine the tremendous landscape in which they are working. What we don’t know is anything about their day-to-day feelings. What I could say right now is simply that I’ve learned a lot about the simplicity and power of life.

One day a friend who saw the film asked me: “You wrote all those words and ideas for them, didn’t you?” It seems that people don’t believe in what my workers are capable of saying. And it is because of this that I made this film; I love the expression of ideas, and the everyday language of the people who you wouldn’t believe could express them.