Directed by Jose Padilha Bus 174 is a documentary about a bus hijacking in Rio de Janeiro. It is on a warm evening in June of 2000 that a homeless teenager named Sandro boards a bus, which will ultimately change the lives of several hostages and himself. Sandro, high on cocaine, enters the bus armed and ready to rob it as well as the unfortunate passengers still on board. When his robbery plans go wrong he takes out his gun and threatens to kill off hostages if his demands are not met. At first the passengers seem to be numb to the situation almost as if they had been involved in this type of situation before. At one point, a hostage was able to talk on the phone where she called her boss to inform them she would be late for work. Within no time the bus is surrounded by an uncontrolled crowd and the media. Law enforcement was present but had no control over the situation that they would ultimately botch.
In Mark D. Szuchman’s The City as Vision- The Development of Urban Culture in Latin America he writes that Latin Americans once viewed cities as a place full of opportunities. However these cities would not offer everyone the chance of a better life. Some would suffer destroyed families, the loss of traditions and the security of their once small communities. City officials who were suppose to be the voice of the people, have lost their authority over these now overcrowded and crime ridden cities. Even the police who are supposed to protect have given up or have turned to using their power for criminal activity. Cities and its inhabitants now regard human life as disposable. Disregard for its citizens is obvious in Bus 174. As a young child Sandro witnessed the brutal murder of his mother. Social services were not available to help him deal with this tragedy. Sandro would leave the security of his aunt’s home to become a lost child of the streets, where he would be left to fend for himself. Non profits would try to help but life on the streets made Sandro numb and angry. He had nothing and he needed so much. He had nothing to loose with this act of violence.
The same could be said for those that robbed Alberto Salcedo Ramos. Ramos knew that hailing a cab at night in Bogota was like playing Russian Roulette, in that you never knew could come from a taxi ride. And this is not just for the customer but for the driver as well. In his article The Drive-by Victim in Citizens of Fear: Urban Violence in Latin America Ramos would describe the horrifying events of being a kidnapped victim. After hailing a cab to take him home, the taxi driver brings him to a place where two other men force themselves into the car and demand money. Ramos is then instructed how to behave, which was encouraged with slaps on the face, and eventually a threat of death. Ramos said the most painful part of the drive was how they humiliated him, and how they had him at their mercy. These men were not interested in killing Ramos, but getting three million pesos to pay a ransom to a rival gang that had one of their men. After they used Ramos’s atm card, they then let him go in the middle of nowhere with ten thousand pesos to get a taxi ride home.
Sandro in Bus 174 was also not interested in killing his hostages; he just wanted to have his demands met and to make a statement of the injustices that he had suffered. Hostages would back this up by describing how Sandro as full of threats but he had no real intention of killing anyone. In actuality it would be the police that would ultimately cause the death of the young girl and Sandro.
Bus 174 was a tragic incident not only for the hostages but Sandro as well. This documentary opens up a dialogue on how society gets so self absorbed that it doesn’t see what it is doing to those around them. Hopefully lessons were learned, and measures are taken so this can be avoided in the future.