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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


Bus 174

Chris Campbell

José Padilha's 2002 documentary Bus 174 is about a bus hijacking in Rio de Janeiro in 2000 is a gripping, heart-wrenching look at an incident as an indication of a larger problem. Through the incident it establishes the context and the series of events in Brazil that lead to a situation that was both horrible and inevitable. The film uses the extensive footage of the incident covered live on television in Brazil. It asks the general question of "how did we get here?" and the more specific question of "how did Sandro get here?" The invisibility and lack of media attention paid to the street-kid who caused the incident is the nagging question that Padilha thought was the key to understand how it happened. Film is a time-based medium and co-director / editor Felipe Lacerda and Padilha skillfull break up and magnify time as the incident unfolds and we understand things a bit more. The cross-cutting between the story of the Sandro and the hijacking slowly reveal broader insights into Brazillian society in a direct, powerful and personal way that many documentaries about larger social issues fumble all-too-often. Sweeping helicopter shots establish the locations and provide some relief from the tension of the events. But as the film moves towards the end of the highjacking we watch in excruciating detail how the tragedy unfolds. An amazing film that exemplifies the possibilities of documentary.