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July 02, 2009


PixoteLong before Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund made "City of God" in 2002, about Rio de Janeiro's youth-centric atmosphere of organized crime, director Hector Babenco set the bar for such explosive cinema with his brilliant 1981 film "Pixote."

The film's full title, "Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco" translates as "Pixote: The Law of the Weakest," and was based on José Louzeiro's book "A infância dos mortos" ("The Childhood of the Dead Ones") in a screenplay adaptation by Babenco and his script collaborator Jorge Duran, about a young boy named Pixote (pronounced Pee-jo-che). Fernando Ramos Da Silva was the expressive young non-actor chosen to play his life as a ghetto child for Babenco's evocative subjective camera. The boy is sent to a cruel juvenile reformatory where he sniffs glue and learns the ways of prison survival that inform his life after he and two of his friends escape the jail. Pixote desperately seeks the attention a mother figure even as he falls deeper into an inevitable vortex of crime and violence.


"Pixote" is Hector Babenco's masterwork. The film is a distressed and powerful cry for social change in a Brazilian society that feeds on its on children. It is a deeply affecting and haunting film that penetrates the skin of its viewer through the personal commitment to its subject that comes through in every frame. That Fernandos Ramos Da Silva was eventually murdered at 19 by police in Sao Paulo only emphasizes the sad fate of so many more Brazilian children just like him. "Pixote" is an amazing cinematic social document made with fury and passion by an uncompromising director. There has never been another film that approaches its depiction of Brazil's condemned youth, not even "City of God."


Rated R. 128 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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