Bus 174

Bus 174 is a 2002 Brazilian documentary discussing the events surrounded a the hijacking of a public bus and ensuing standoff with Rio de Janeiro police by a man named Sandro Rosa do Nascimento. Sandro originally had intended to rob the passengers on the bus and get away before the police arrived, but circumstances changed, and Sandro found himself surrounded by police and live television crews. The hijacking of Bus 174 became national news in Brazil, and became a symbol for the injustices present within Brazilian society.

In The City as Vision-The Development of Urban Culture in Latin America Mark Szuchman writes, “Latin Americans have historically imagined the city in a positive ways, that is, they have recognized it as the locus of a particular type of civilization that endows its members with a more comprehensive existence.” The realities shown in Bus 174 about Sandro’s past and other poverty stricken children in Brazil, however, vary greatly from this notion. Homeless children are quite prevalent in Brazil’s cities, and Sandro himself grew up living on the street. Sandro was very bitter about his life, both his mother’s death and the Candelária church massacre, and used his platform to speak out against the police. The film itself examines what life is like for the poor in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the failings of the criminal justice system.

Bus 174 effectively shows that the Brazilian society forces street kids done a path of crime and jail that does not offer the potential for meaningful reform, thus leading to more violence and harm to society. This is a reality faced by many countries in Latin America as Alma Guillermoprieto writes in The Heart that Bleeds, “Mexicans’ standard of living will not improve unless at least twenty million new sources of income are created, and that will not happen with the country’s available investment capital.” In Rio de Janeiro, the general lack of jobs further contributes to an environment of crime as people are unable to find legitimate means of work. For Sandro, having lost his mother and his various times locked up in jail, there is nothing left for society to offer him. Once he realizes he is unlikely to get away, he becomes a general threat to his hostages and the police.

Sandro himself does not seem like a truly violent criminal, in that he goes out of his way to fake shooting one of his hostages rather than actually kill her. He is, however, committed to the role of the criminal much like the kidnappers in The Drive-by Victim by Alberto Salcedo Ramos. The kidnappers are willing to use violence to get their money, but seem to recognize that both they and their victims are taking part in a larger game with competing sides (the legal vs the criminal). Sandro understood how the justice system worked, and that if he was arrested he may very well be killed by the police, which was ultimately what happened to him. The ineptitude of the criminal justice system from the Candelária church massacre, the jail system, and how the police bungled the hostage situation leading to the deaths of Sandro and one of the hostages is the lasting impression of the film. As a whole, the film portrays the failings of Brazilian society in an excellent and moving way.