La Hora Cero (The Zero Hour), a movie set and filmed in Caracas, is the big-screen debut of Venezuelan-born and U.S.-raised director Diego Velasco, whose short films have won over 26 awards. Set during the real-life, 24-hour national health strike that paralyzed the city’s public hospitals in 1996, it follows a fictional hitman (sicario) who takes control of a private hospital to save his pregnant girlfriend—the victim of a shooting in which the culprit is revealed only later in the film.
By focusing on a sicario, one of Latin America’s most feared criminal types, the film attempts to show the link between violence and social inequality—in this case the gap in quality between private and public health care. During the filming, reality quickly intruded in cinematic interpretation. A supporting actor was assassinated, and a co-producer was kidnapped but released.
The filmmakers say they did not want to produce a socioeconomic critique. “We want viewers to digest and interpret the movie’s ideas, not to put ideas in their heads,” Guatemalan co-writer Carolina Paiz told AQ. The Venezuela release is scheduled for after mid-2010, followed by distribution around the hemisphere.