Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Yesterday and today I watched Pixote, directed by Hector Babenco in 1981. It's a tough movie to watch, focusing on the lives of homeless kids in Sao Paulo. As much as I enjoyed it, it might not be a movie I watch again (or often) because it's so sad and difficult to see. I think that's why it's great, though, and important. I always find it harder to write about movies like this, ones that are difficult to watch but incredibly good, since it seems so contradictory.
IMDB has a great summary, so I'm going to use that for right now. "Pixote, a 10-year-old runaway boy, is arrested on the streets of Sao Paulo during a police round-up homeless people. Pixote endures torture, degradation and corruption at a local youth detention center where two of the runaways are murdered by policemen who frame Lilica, a 17-year-old transvestite hustler. Pixote helps Lilica and three other boys escape where they make their living by the life of crime which only escalates to more violence and death." It's somehow full of more upsetting events, as well, which is awful. The copy I watched had a little segment where the director, I assume, spoke the camera before the film started. He explained that there are more homeless children in areas like Sao Paulo than any other age group, and helped to point out that this is a real problem, and children lead lives like the ones shown in the movie.
On that same note, I was sort of haunted by the film after I read that the boy who played Pixote (not an actor, just a street kid) returned to the streets after this movie was made and was killed by police when he was only 18 or 19. It's so tragic. It made the events in the film seem so much more powerful, because it was even more clear to me that the events weren't just plot, but a reality. One that I have no experience with, but a reality nevertheless. All of the kids in the film were really just playing themselves, basically, and the whole thing is shot so that it feels like a documentary. We never forget that the characters are just kids, either. They are not talented at crime, and are not part of fancy organized gangs. They're struggling to get by - they're thoughtless and confused, and have no control over anything, even the crimes they commit. It's very realistic. There is some fiction at work here, but not very much, it seems.
As much as it hurts to see how much other people can suffer, knowing that there is a problem can lead to a solution, I hope. That's why I always feel like films like this are so important. I think it's always really important and beneficial to see how other people live, be it good or bad. Educational is too simple of a word for it, but enlightening is too much. I feel something in between the two. I guess I feel like it makes me wiser? Movies like this are also important beyond personal growth. Sometimes awareness is a first step, as stupid as it sounds. I do often wish that movies that try to raise awareness had something at the end about where you can go or what you can do to help, but ones like this with unhappy endings seem more likely to motivate people. I only bring that up because this movie, at least my copy with the little blurb at the beginning about how this movie was about real issues, seemed to be trying, in part, to raise awareness.
Even though I found this movie really sad - a lot of it stemming from the non-actors and the documentary-like feel - I really liked it. I wouldn't really watch it again in a few months or even a year or two, but that's because I know that it's going to be stuck in my head. It manages to tell a compelling story while also highlighting real-world issues, and it walks that line without ever feeling too heavy-handed. It's a tough movie, but it's a good one.
Have any thoughts about Pixote? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Pixote
Buy it on Amazon