Bus 174

Bus 174 is a documentary that covers the highjacking of a bus in Brazil by a street kid named Sandro.  At the begining it seems that the film is just going to focus on the highjacking but it actually delves into the society of Brazil.  Bus 174 gives an in depth look at what kind of lives street kids have and why their experiences would drive someone like Sandro (who as we see in the film was not a cold blooded killer) to take hostages on a bus and threaten to kill them.

In Alma Guillermoprieto’s article The Heart That Bleeds she discusses how modernity is changing Latin America and if it is really for the benefit of the people or not.  In her article modernity appears to mean that Mexico in particular is becoming more like the United States and losing much of its cultural heritage, such as the Mariachis not being used and rock music taking over radio stations.  The idea that Taco Bells in Mexico will serve American tacos instead of real Mexican food is rather ironic, especially since fast food is seen as a luxury for the middle class.  The Heart That Bleeds resembles Bus 174 in the respect that there are groups of people who are invisible to society, such as the Mariachis who are slowly being replaced by rock stations similar to those in America.  Much of this article seems to be about the changing of Mexican society and how American culture has influenced it.  This does not seem to be as prevalent in Bus 174 but the alienated members of society are present in both pieces.

The Drive-by Victim by Alberto Salcedo Ramos is the account of a man who is taken hostage in a taxi in order to be robbed.  This is similar to Bus 174 in the respect that the hostages were taken only to be robbed and not murdered.  The hostage takers in The Drive-by Victim say that they will hurt Ramos and his family if he does not cooperate and they make various threats but once they take the money out of an ATM they console him, let him go and even give him money to get a taxi home with.  The criminals in this article are not robbing Ramos for fun, they tell him that they are all unemployed and there is a sense that they are doing this out of necessity.  This is similar to Sandro in many ways, his adopted mother said that Sandro had wanted to get a job and start a new life before the event in Bus 174.  Sandro did not get a job and it is not said whether he was unable to get one or he did not look but the way that Brazillian society is portrayed in the film it did not seem like he would be able to.  Sandro also threatened his hostages but most of them felt like he was not really going to shoot them and that he was looking for a way to escape.

Sandro’s problems seemed to stem from his mother’s murder when he was a child.  She owned a store and once she died Sandro moved in with his aunt and eventually ran away and became a street kid.  While he was a street kid many of his friends were massacred by the police outside of a church and Sandro himself had been beaten in prison and confined in conditions that would be considered inhumane or torture in America.  The SWAT negotiator called Sandro’s hostage taking an effect of a “interupted robbery (or holdup)”.  In the movie it appeared that Sandro did not want to kill any of his hostages but was trying to find a way to make his escape and would rather be killed than taken alive by the police.  Once Sandro leaves the bus he shoots a woman in the back (after she has been shot in the face by a cop) but whether he meant to shoot her or one of the cops is not clear.  Whatever Sandro’s intentions were he essentially became just like the men who had murdered his mother. 

Bus 174 shows much of the corruption in Brazilian society, from invisible street kids who have no way of improving their life, corrupt cops who murder children outside of churchs, to prisons that force 20 people into a cell that should hold 10 at the most.  The film is not intended to show that Sandro should be forgiven but to pose the question of how society can be changed so that there are not more people like Sandro being made every day.