Bus 174 is a documentary about a hostage taker in Rio de Janeiro and his life up to his death. While the film seems a straight forward storytelling of a street kid and the horrors of his youth, adding historical context provides a glimpse into the reasons and social situations of Latin American cities in general. The readings complementing Bus 174 are The Heart That Bleeds, which provides a cultural view of the arts in Mexico City during the late 1900s, I Saw a City Invincible, which steps back and views social change in major Latin American urban centers, and The Drive-by Victim, which tells the story of a theft in the streets of Bogota.
The Heart That Bleeds is written by a traveler in Mexico who provides commentary on social issues. Some of the essay may be utilized to explain the situation Sandro faces as a street kid in Latin America. While there is little direct relation between the events of the film and Bus 174, the two timelines are contemporary and serve to generalize a social environment. The Heart That Bleeds depicts living conditions of the, distinction here, renting people, who stay in “old-fashioned, high-ceilinged rooms…crowded with bunk beds stacked as many as five high” (241). These cramped spaces are exponentially worsened in government funded spaces, such as the jail in which Sandro lived. In addition to living quarters, the author’s study of mariachi and the impact of a modern subway line in Mexico City attributes itself to the life of a street kid. Shown in Bus 174, a major source of income for these kids is performing on the streets of Rio de Janeiro for commuters. This impact of modernization further restricts avenues for success just as the mass urbanization of the early 1900s did.
I Saw a City Invincible’s greatest complement to Bus 174 is the social impact of the arts on inner city kids. Capoeira, a form of martial arts similar to dancing, is mentioned in the film alongside the epidemic of huffing. These two activities are far different in their purpose. The author writes that dancing, in general, is “also one of the most inclusive activities in societies that for so long and in subtle ways have segregated the rich from the poor” (23). Sandro’s participation is explained by a school teacher, who plays a drum in the instrumental portion of capoeira. Accompanying this urban form of dancing is the practice of huffing glue. These street kids are included in capoeira, yet they distance themselves from the wealthy involved through their addiction.
The Drive-by Victim is an alternate story of criminals which manages to pull at one’s heart strings. Sympathizing with the criminals is a leap most are unwilling to take. Bus 174 on the surface is a theft gone wrong and a lunatic seeking an audience. Only through a deep history of the life of Sandra do Nascimento is insight gained to the horrors he has experienced. The life as a street kid, including the Candelaria Massacre, his time in juvenile detention, as well as the cramped corners of prison, and the murder of his mother lend reasoning and justification to his actions, especially in Latin American, where the social structure does not provide as much assistance to the poor.