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BUS 174: DVD

On the afternoon of June 12, 2000, a bus on route 174 was hijacked by a gun toting homeless young man who was trying to rob the passengers. Traffic cameras were recording the event, but very soon a media scrum emerged and every second of the five-hour ordeal was recorded on tape. But the cameras only recorded the events at the time, not the context or the background of the young man's tragic, if not unique Rio de Janeiro story.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What makes this documentary globally important and really special is the filmmaker's instincts to probe behind the incident. What he shows us is a series of social illnesses that are devastating in their implacability, their inevitability perhaps, and their tragedy. The young man on Bus 174, nicknamed Sergio by the police negotiator but actually called Sandro, was six when he saw his mother butchered by thieves in her small shop. His father was not around, and young Sandro hit the streets, like thousands of youngsters either abandoned or thrown out of a broken, chaotic home in Rio (and no doubt elsewhewre). With no social net to pick them up, the kids fend for themselves as best they can. We can imagine.

As the story of Pedro unfolds, intercut with the hijacking as it unfolds, we begin to form new attitudes to the event. The police don't come out of this with any honour, but then we digest the fact that the majority of Rio's regular police are people who turn to this line of work after failing to get any other job.

As award winning filmmaker José Padilha constructs the context in which the event takes place, and we become better informed, the target of our outrage begins to blur and multiply. This is no actyion film, as Pedro repeatedly shouts through the bus window to the cops, and it has no simple plot or well defined goodies and baddies. And it's much more troubling than any fiction.

Needless to say, much of the footage is raw, even the material shot by the tv stations. But that rawness is immaterial as our senses grow weary with empathy fatigue as we learn of the secret midnight massacre by a handful of police officers of dozens of street kids - who had dared to taunt them earlier in the day. One survivor of that night was Sandro.

His rage fuelled by a set of circumstances that we can only blink at from the comfort of a cinema seat, by the time he pulled a gun on Bus 174 he didn't even know what he wanted - except perhaps not to be invisible to the society in which he was thrust. And through the testimony of a couple of the women who survived the bus crisis, we also learn the depth of humanity that can exist in the midst of such a life threatening event. There are, after all, individuals who care for their fellow miserable humans.

But like Sandro, we too feel powerless to shift the weight of society's collective indifference; so many flaws that need to be addressed, and Rio is not the only place. We may not know where to begin, but films like this are a damn good start.

Published September 9, 2004

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BUS 174: DVD (MA)

Ônibus 174

CAST: Documentary with Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, Sandro do Nascimento, Rodrigo Pimentel, Luiz Eduardo Soares

DIRECTOR: Felipe Lacerda, José Padilha


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Rental: none; retail: tba


DVD RELEASE: September 15, 2004

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