Bus 174

BUS174

This documentary of a Rio de Janeiro bus hijacking and its back story exposes a stinging irony: the ubiquity of real-time and retrospective media attention lavished on its central figure, who on that day waged the final act of a lifelong “battle against invisibility.” As a boy, Sandro do Nascimento witnessed his mother’s murder, a trauma compounded by its having propelled him into the fold of the city’s many hapless street kids. Director José Padilha strives to reveal the context of the eventual hijacker’s ill-fated formative milieu, in which poverty is rampant and variously destructive, and police are both brutal and incompetent. However thoroughly extrapolated and politically charged the culminating incident is, though, Padilha’s account doesn’t seem all that different from one of the many true-crime shows now available on cable TV; it can feel too teased out. As an effective eye-opener, however, it rebukes viewers for romanticizing Rio’s urban energy.

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