Quiet in San Fran11 May 2008
Ônibus 174
2002, Brazil
director: José Padilha

Bus 174 is a documentary about a June 2000 bus-jacking in Rio de Janeiro that escalated into a long, public standoff with police. When an armed man took control of a city bus in broad daylight, local news agencies swarmed, capturing nearly all of the incident on video tape. Documentarian José Padilha has shaped the large amount of footage into a clear and well-rounded retelling of what happened. It may sound like a special episode of Cops, but Bus 174 is far more inquisitive than a reality TV show. In the movie's opening minutes, Padilha uses aerial photography to look down on the city as a whole, and later he does the same thing figuratively, widening his gaze to draw attention to social problems in Rio of which the hijacking is just a single dramatic symptom. The movie detours from the hours-long standoff to ask all the right questions about urban violence, and it reveals details about the hijacker's life — and the lives of other young homeless people who were involved in a previous drive-by slaughter — to link the treatment of homeless children with the incident on bus 174. Padilha weaves all of this into a suspenseful narrative that manages to satisfy the rubbernecking instinct while still contributing to our understanding of the consequences of poverty. The dichotomy runs deep: while it faults police for allowing the standoff to become a media circus, the movie in its current form would not have been possible without all those cameras.

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