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from Bus 174 through a series of prisons? Along with co-director Fernando Lacerda, Padilha began working on a documentary to try to answer those questions. They hired a private detective and lawyer who helped retrieve nearly 200 pages of court records documenting Sandro’s dismal recycling through the criminal justice system. The result is a stark, exhaustively researched film that combines interviews conducted by the directors with actual TV footage of the hijacking, purchased from the networks after months of negotiation. It reveals a far more complicated picture of what took place that afternoon in June 2000 than was broadcast at the time. Trained as a physicist, Padilha had a brief, but lucrative career in finance before turning to filmmaking, which may have something to do with the way Bus 174 is structured. There is an almost mathematical elegance to the way it maps the parallel realitiesthe chronology of the hijacking of June 12, 2000, and the short, sad chronology of Sandro do Nascimento’s life. It moves easily between Sandro the hijacker”Fifteen years ago, they tore my mother’s head off. I’ve got nothing left to lose. This ain’t no action movie,”and the young boy who saw his mother stabbed to death. Between “Didn’t you kill my friends at Candelaria! I was there?” and a video of Sandro as a street kid in Candalaria and an interview with a young woman who walks through downtown Rio today and points to the newspaper stand where Sandro used to sleep. After Candelaria, Sandro moves in an out of the infernal prison system. Just months before the hijacking, he visits a social worker he has known for years. He’d like to get a job, he tells her. But he can’t read or write. He’s never had a job. What could he possibly do? He tells an older woman who has befriended him and provided him a place to stay, that he’s going to make a success of his life and will make her proud. He might not see live to see it, he says cryptically, but she will. Soon after, images of Sandro are televised all over Brazil. But even as he orders hostages around with his gun to their heads, it is clear that he is trapped on the bus, surrounded by police. We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends. Although widely acclaimed at film festivals throughout the world, Bus 174 has been eclipsed by the more commercially popular Cidade De Deus \(See, “God’s Little Favela,” April 25, another film that deals with urban violence and which has been nominated for several Oscars, including Best Director. Critics have tended to group the films together, but Bus 174 is clearly in a class by itself. It can also be maddening at times. Padilha and Lacerda use Sandro and the hijacking as a lens to examine an infinite number of institutionspolice, courts, jails, government. The film keeps spiraling outward and we are left with more and more information and more and more questions. And yet it is also, quite simply, one of the finest films to appear in yearsone that has much to say, not only about Brazilian institutions, but about the tragic complexity of life itself. For information about the ongoing Brazilian Film series currently being sponsored by UT-Austin’s Brazil Center and Cine Las Americas, see or . 2/13/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25