Bus 174

Director: Jose Padilha & Felipe Lacerda

Brazil| 2002. Subtitles. Colour. 120 mins.

Tense, engrossing and superbly structured, this outstanding Brazilian documentary examines a notorious recent crime that rocked Rio de Janeiro. On June 12, 2000, a man named Sandro do Nascimento tried to rob the passengers on a bus, eventually took them hostage and initiated a crisis that was televised live and ended in tragedy. Bus 174 re-creates that crime with TV news footage, interviews with survivors and police and insights into the million or more homeless who live on the streets of Rio. The unfolding drama of the hijack is riveting, but where the film really scores is in its portrait of Sandro’s terrible life and its wider social implications. We learn that, as a child, he witnessed his mother’s death, and that as a teenager he survived a famous police massacre of sleeping street kids. These interviews prompt digressions on the lives of such kids, on local prison conditions, and the nature of police procedures. Just as the hijacking reaches its climax, directors Jose Padilha and Felipe Lacerda dive once more back into Sandro’s childhood, before returning to the scene of the crime for the heart-stopping conclusion.

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