Bus 174 is the footage of a bus hijacking with eleven hostages in Brazil on July 12, 2000. The film not only shows the intense hostage situation, but also shows the history behind the event, those things that led Sandro, the gunman, to make such a choice.
Sandro grew up as a street kid. His mother was killed when he was six and instead of living with his aunt, he went to the streets. Street kids tried to stay alive by hustling for money or stealing. Hunger seemed to be the driving force behind their actions. The film did not portray the street kids as having goals of having a lot of money; their goal was simply to make it through another day.
Sandro lived with a group of street kids. One night they were attacked by local police and he lost many of his friends. They were all still children. This left an undisputable affect upon Sandro. He referenced the incident many times while holding the hostages on the bus.
Street kids were looked down upon in Brazilian society. They were seen as a nuisance and below the status of everyone else. Overall, there was not a sense of caring from the community for their plight in life. A story is told in an interview in the film about stones being dropped on the heads of sleeping street kids in an effort to kill them.
Street kids were seen as different from the rest of society. One person in the film said, “If the police had known he was a street kid, they would have taken that into account when negotiating with him.” They would have perceived him as being “unpredictable”
The Drive-by Victim by Alberto S. Ramos, is another account of a hijacking, this time in a taxi. The three robbers present themselves as hard core criminals, threatening death to the victim, as well as, harm to his family. They take down his address and ask him later to repeat it for verification, insinuating that they will go there and hurt his family he does not cooperate; however, in the end, they reassure him that he will not be killed and that their only motive is to raise money for a hurt friend. They give him money for a taxi home and assure him of his safety. Ramos says sums up the ironic events and the state of society in which he and the robbers live by saying “…we are so screwed in this country that the only option we have left it thanking the thieves” (137).
That idea can also be seen in Bus 174. The police did nothing to save the hostages on the bus. Their inaction resulted in an escalation of the situation resulting in the presumed death of one hostage and the real death of another. While Sandro was the instigator of the events on Bus 174, his actions were a cry for help, a cry to be seen. It was a “battle against invisibility” (Bus 174).
The Heart that Bleeds by Alma Guillermoprieto, takes a look into the Mexican sorrow that permeates their souls, with blame laid at the feet of American influences upon their country, but a very telling statement is recorded, made by a local Mexican. He said, “A Mexican knows that life is worthless” (240). That belief could be seen in Sandro in Bus 174. His life had become so desperate that it lost its value and resorted to violence to be seen and heard. That hunger “for social existence” drove him to extreme actions and ultimately cost him his life (Bus 174).
In The City-Invincible, Mark D. Szuchman sites a woman’s account of her experience migrating to the city. She perceived the city to be a place full of opportunity, but “barely managed […] subsistence within the labyrinths of their slums” (23). Her diary, which was published, recounted her “daily life in metropolitan Brazil” and the “difficulties of survival” (23). Her words left an impact upon Brazilian society by making them look at the “violence, alcoholism, disease and hunger” that impacted the “daily lives of thousands of people a short distance from their own neighborhoods” (23).
Sadly, that awareness of others pain and struggle did not play out in Bus 174. There were those interviewed who seemed to understand the overwhelming situation Sandro found himself in on that fateful day. He longed to be seen to helped out of the pit of poverty and hardship into which he had been thrust by life’s circumstances. However, the majority of those looking into the bus from the outside saw only a deranged criminal who would get what he deserved, death. they didn’t stop to see how he had gotten to such a place. Sandro’s actions were wrong. Taking hostages, holding a gun to someone’s head and ultimately pulling the trigger were all horrible acts, but what if those outside the but had simply taken a moment to see him for who he was, a street kid, longing to be seen, to be a part of the society that had tossed him aside without a second thought?