Bus 174 is a documentary film about the life of street kids in Rio de Janeiro and an incident where Sandro do Nascimento took several hostages on a bus resulting in a tragic ending. The film explores life in the favelas and the life of Sandro in an attempt to understand his actions during the standoff. It employs interviews with law enforcement official involved in the incident, family members of Sandro, social workers, and other street kids in Rio de Janeiro to tell the story of Sandro’s life, the bus 174 incident, and street life in general.
Obviously one of the major factors leading to Sandro’s street life was the death of his mother. This directly lead to him moving to the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Without the murder of his mother, his life may have taken a different path. It is quite possible though, given the quality of life there, that he still would have turned to a life of crime. The influx of people to the major cities, as a result of a lack of opportunity in the rural areas, caused a significant shortage of jobs (Szuchman, 25). With the lack of employment or only short term employment, many turned to criminal activities to survive. Szuchman cites the “physical detachment from one’s area of birth” as a factor also (Szuchman, 17). These factors certainly affected the decision, the term “decision” used loosely here as the lack of options left little room actually choose a path, of Sandro to live on the streets and resort to crime.
The central story of the documentary revolves around the incident on bus 174. The end result was appears to be quite different from what Sandro had intended. Through the accounts of the hostages who survived the standoff it becomes clear that his intentions was not to kill anyone. Those interviewed told of the two different dialogues that existed during the standoff, one inside where Sandro was actually reassuring the hostages he did not intend to harm them and one outside where he professed his ability as well as intention to kill them if the police did not cooperate. The idea that the street kids only turn to crimes such as burglary and theft rather than violent crimes against the general population is solidified here. Crime was not necessarily what they wanted to do but rather a necessity so survive. This is also a theme in Ramos’ account in The Drive-by Vicim. The threats of harm to him and his family were only a means to force the victim to cooperate in the robbery. The physical beating he endured was also only a means to acquire his money. The robbers reinforced their intentions many times, One solidifying example of this is proven when one of the accomplices give Ramos taxi money to get home and offers protection against another taxi driver robbing him (Ramos, 137). The idea that the street kids are forced into this line of work is also reinforced here when one exclaims “We’re all unemployed!” (Ramos, 137).
The police play a major role in this example of street life in Rio de Janeiro. They were certainly the catalyst in the tragic ending to the standoff. Examples of the police treatment of the street kids in Rio de Janeiro are given through the story of the Candelaria Massacre, which Sandro was a witness to. The unpreparedness of the police was quite evident throughout the event and led directly to the death of the hostage, given the fact that one of the officers actually shot the hostage in the head. The blame for the entire situation was placed directly on Sandro by the police, though it is evident, through the opinion of the anonymous officer interviewed, that the blame should be placed equally on the failure of the police to effectively resolve the situation.
The question raised in class about accountability for the actions of the street kids is certainly not simple to answer. The choice does not seem to revolve around the desire to turn to crime rather than legitimate work. Those in these situations are making the choice to survive. With little other options available, they turn to crime as a means for survival. The fact that many of the criminals do not resort to violent crime against the general population is evidence of this.