Bus 174

     Bus 174 is a documentary about the events of a hostage situation in Brazil in 2000 that was directed by Jose Padilha and Felipe Lacerda. Sandro do Nascimento, the hostage taker, was a poor street kid that tried robbing the passengers on the bus but was foiled in his attempt and took the people on Bus 174 hostage for several hours. Though Sandro was bluffing and never had the intention of killing anyone, the police that were on the scene took the situation seriously with the idea that he was dangerous and wanted to shoot him if it were not for the media that was present. When Sandro exited the bus with one of the women as a human shield and an officer advanced and fired at him, he only shot the woman in the face, and as both Sandro and the woman went down, Sandro fired three shots into her back. Live television crews captured Sandro being loaded into a police car while he was alive, but he was then suffocated in the back of the vehicle by the brutal handling of the police.

     This documentary film splits screen time between actual recordings of the hostage situation and interviews with several people that knew Sandro in real life. In the interviews, Sandro’s past is revealed to the audience, including how he witnessed his mother’s brutal murder at a young age, how Sandro grew up poor on the streets of Brazil, and the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the police systems of the country. This was done by the filmmakers to show Sandro’s intentions of displaying the reality of his life to the world, and to gain sympathy for a man who otherwise would have been reviled for the criminal acts he performed.

     Sandro’s life as a street kid was not a criminal life as explained in the film by interviews with former street kids that knew him. These children that were stuck on the streets with no family, job, or anywhere to go, only wanted to make a living like everyone else. They did not intend to be criminals, they just had to hustle to make a living. The account of a robbery that Alberto Ramos suffered shows this best. Though the two men robbing Alberto were cruel with beatings and threats, they had no intention of killing him, because they said “We’re thieves, man, not killers.” (136). These men only needed money to save a friend that was hurt. In showing kindness, the men give Alberto his glasses back before letting him out, and the thieves even leave Alberto with money for another taxi and assure him they would protect him from being robbed again.

      This situation of the robbery is like that of Sandro in the film, because it causes a moral conundrum within the audience. While the viewer realizes that Sandro is performing a criminal act and endangering lives, he is doing so because of a traumatizing childhood in which abuse is suffered at the hands of police and prison guards in overcrowded jails, and are only becoming criminals as a last resort to survive. The two other reading articles for this week, I Saw a City Invincible and The Heart That Bleeds, help to explain the source for why so many millions of children are stuck in this heart-wrenching situation, like that of Sandro or Carolina Maria de Jesus, who kept a diary of her life in the Sao Paulo streets (Szuchman, 23). Urbanization due to American influences in the post-World War 2 era caused many Latin American citizens to move from their agricultural way of life to the urban sprawl of the city. They made this migration in search of a better way of life and because they viewed the city as full of opportunities, but when they arrived, they fell into the way of life that so many millions are still in today: that of Sandro and the millions of other street kids.