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Napoleon A. Chagnon
Documentary depicts what happened in Rio de Janeiro on June 12th 2000, when bus 174 was taken by an armed young man, threatening to shoot all the passengers. Transmitted live on all Brazilian TV networks, this shocking and tragic-ending event became one of violence's most shocking portraits, and one of the scariest examples of police incompetence and abuse in recent years. Written by
A fascinating documentary of challenges and failure exposure that is not an easy watch
In June 2000 a young man tried to rob a bus in Rio de Janeiro and ended up in a hostage situation as the police SWAT team surrounded the bus. However the police at first fail to control the situation, allowing crowds of the public and the media to gather right outside the bus putting the story at the top of every channel's output. The police gradually bring the situation outside under control but inside the pressure cooker of the bus things are only getting worse as the young man demands grenades, a rifle and a driver for the bus before starting to set deadlines for killing the passengers one by one.
I had never heard this story before watching this film so I had no idea where it was going or how it would end; in a way I suppose this makes it more engaging for me as a viewer because the main story was as good as the back story (the latter being the main thrust of the film). The opening credits sees the camera moving from the rich side of Rio down into the crowded and heaving slums and this start pretty much lays out the groundwork for a film that aims to highlight the total failure of any system in Brazil to deal with the rich/poor divide a divide that is extreme beyond understanding. The main action on the bus is interesting but what the film does well is to build on this by looking at the background of Sandro a background that is not uncommon among street kids. It deals with a complex range of issues and it poses many questions of the authorities.
It is not cheerful viewing because it can find no answers and it can find nothing here to give hope for the future. The social work system fails but the real failure highlighted here is the legal system and the police. The response to the bus hijacking is a shambles which ends badly due to the police and allegedly ends with them murdering Sandro in the back of the police van a crime which the jury found them innocent of. The point that nobody seems to care for the disenfranchised poor is further hammered home with startling footage of the prisons and a history of the Candelária massacre. The final credits shows that nothing really has happened and certainly a scan of the newspapers online suggest that not much has changed in the last six years. The contributions are mostly very good and everyone is pretty honest however the uses the archive footage to very good effect to present the hostage situation while also expanding the discussion to look beyond it.
Overall then this is not a film to come to if you are looking for a fun night in. However it is a fascinating documentary that starts with one compelling event and uses it to look at the wider problems inherent in Rio's problems. Those that found City of God riveting should watch this as it does the job just as well but does it by raising the debate above street level and exposes the system failures that condemn poor to death or even brings it to them as the norm. Fascinating stuff but about as downbeat and hopeless as you could imagine.
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