Film-Forward Review: [BUS 174]

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BUS 174
Directed by: José Padilha.
Produced by: Padilha & Marcos Prado.
Director of Photography: Marcelo Duarte & Cezar Moraes.
Edited by: Felipe Lacerda.
Music by: Sacha Amback & João Nabuco.
Released by: THINKFilm/HBO/Cinemax Documentary.
Language: Portuguese with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Brazil. 122 min. Not Rated.
DVD Features: "The Making of Bus 174". Additional interviews.

During a sweeping aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro's curvaceous mountains and beaches, young voices chime, ”I have no parents. I will never know happiness.” So begins Jose Padilha's moving and heart-gripping documentary of the incident that made 21-year-old Sandro do Nascimento, a street kid, a household name on June 12, 2000 when he hijacks a commuter bus in the ritzy south side of Rio de Janeiro and takes the passengers on board hostage. By using footage taken on the chaotic scene by the myriad journalists that swarm around the bus, and interviews from people in Sandro's life (which include his hostages), Padilha effectively pieces together a picture of not only Sandro, but street kids everywhere. Invisible to most, these urchins, moleques, are like the youth in the Brazilian feature Pixote or the Dickensian street boys of Oliver Twist. The only Sandro we actually see is the Sandro from the bus - angry and dangerous. The one we get to know through others is starkly different - troubled, alone and at times, heartbreaking in his simplicity and shyness. Sandro's social worker describes him coming to her for help in getting a job. "Look at Me. Who will want me," he asks her. He's illiterate, poor and desperate. (Two months later, he's news.) He is, after all, a boy who from the start had all odds stacked against him. Sandro ran away from home at age 10 after witnessing his mother's murder, and began living on the street. Director Padilha succeeds in making socioeconomic statements without hammering us over the head with them or resorting to sentimentality. The images speak loudly and clearly while keeping us completely enthralled, and at times, at the edge of our seats.

Yetta Gottesman, actor, member of LAByrinth Theater Company and The Actors Studio in New York City
October 8, 2003

DVD Extras: Director José Padilha’s primary goal was to show how Sandro, the bus hijacker, was created by the society in which he was raised. He explains the techniques he employed, such as carefully interspersing footage of juvenile delinquents depicting how they are treated in Brazil. Padilha also faced the challenge of interviewing hostages who had been questioned so often they gave rote answers to his first round of questions. His ingenious solution to this problem is but one example of the intelligence and cleverness he displays, and this relatively short extra is worth watching just for that. But the lengthy additional interviews are, unfortunately, unnecessary elaborations on the themes already fleshed out in the film itself. Michael Fisher
August 11, 2004


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