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Pixote, a 10-year-old runaway boy, is arrested on the streets of Sao Paulo during a police round-up homeless people. Pixote endures torture, degradation and corruption at a local youth detention center where two of the runaways are murdered by policemen who frame Lilica, a 17-year-old transvesite hustler. Pixote helps Lilica and three other boys escape where they make their living by the life of crime which only escalates to more violence and death. Written by
The film's star, 'Fernando Ramos Da Silva', who plays a young street criminal, actually was a street criminal before he made this film. After completing it he took up the criminal life again, and was killed in Brazil in 1987 in a shootout with police. See more »
Following the robbery homicide of a Brazilian judge by a street gang, the authorities make a sweep of the local street kids in the area and intern them in a young offender's institution. The film is in part a social issue film where the way the children are treated by the system is condemned and in part a story about a young lad who grows old far too soon. The social issue, although maybe broadly relevant, is hardly au courant some three decades after the film was made, however I didn't feel like this detracted much from the film due to the excellent characterisations and strong story line. It's also not limited by the generics of the prison movie as a lot of the action takes place outside the prison walls.
The main character, an extremely small boy, Pixote (pronounced Pichote), is especially winsome and actually played by a real life delinquent who was subsequently shot by police in a shoot-out. He has developed a firmness of independent judgement and level of character that you generally only find in people well into adulthood, something that he's had to do to survive. It's painfully clear at some points though that he is just a skinny little boy that needs his mother.
There is charisma to spare in the acting performances, including a youngster who does an extremely catchy homage to Roberto Carlos (the great Brazilian singer as opposed to football player) for the prison gig, and appears destined for stardom if he can stay alive.
The kids are in peril because the police are beating them to death in order to find out who killed the judge, whilst the incompetent prison authorities turn a blind eye and fall into a state of apathy concerning the well-being of their wards (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).
Babenco appears fascinated by prison culture and in both this film and his return to the genre with Carandiru (2003) he uses nakedness to remind us of the fundamental vulnerability of the human captives in his film. In the poster for Carandiru you can see the survivors of a prison riot lying naked in a yard, stripped of their clothes (in which they could conceal weapons), in Pixote a "hole" packed with naked children. Beaten, unclothed and helpless it's quite easy to connect with the camouflage of swagger and defiance that they need to survive is taken away. Fundamentally a human is a fragile creature that hurts and most of their persona is just a coping strategy.
There's a dream-like feel to a lot of the film, which is often brazenly erotic (the transvestite Lilica dancing in front of a crowd whilst having her under carriage rubbed by an onlooker's raised foot), and anarchical. It's not easy to label the film as nightmarish because some of the experiences, even when negative, are extremely rich, and the friendships heartfelt.
A classic faux pas of many non-Anglo movies is that whenever whites appear, they are cardboard cutouts, but here the old American john is as well-realised and succinctly characterised as he could be.
Favourite scenes of mine include the post-glue-sniffing fascination of Pixote, and the half-lit dormitory riot which is truly mad.
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