Monday, November 29, 2004

Uncheery telly

Watched Bus 174 yesterday, the documentary about the bus hijacking in Rio four years ago. The film spliced the footage of the drama on the bus with interviews of the policemen and hostages, as well as those who knew the hijacker and a gang leader. There were also studies of the conditions in which criminals are treated in Brazil’s prisons which made the point that the hijacker, Sandro, had very few options open to him once the police surrounded him and the media descended on the area.

Not happy viewing by any stretch, but it was well-made and highlights the social problems which exist in Brazil. The director argues that the way the Brazilian state treats its underclass (violently) means that it responds violently as well. In the short interview he gives on the DVD after the feature itself, when asked if he thinks his film has helped changed society, he gives a no – but then qualifies it by saying it would require a change in society as well.

Then again, how likely is that, when the policemen who were accused on killing Sandro in the back of the police car after the crisis ended, were found not guilty by a jury?

Even though I sympathise with the plight of street children, condemn the brutality of vigilante groups who murder them and the lack of training and respect for human rights in the police, two things kept sticking out in my mind throughout the film.

First, how many viewers tried to imagine what the hostages were going through at the time? When that’s presented on TV and without explaining the background, how do you think most people will react? Most likely, just as the jury members did.

Second, what was going through Sandro’s mind throughout? He must have known he was in a no-win situation. He could never have escaped police attention, especially after embarrassing them so publicly on Brazil’s TV sets. So why take on the state? I’m sure he didn’t want to die, but given police brutality, wasn’t it fairly likely?

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