Bus 174
R4 - Australia - Accent
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (13th June 2005).
The Film

Accent has included the film in its 118 minute original theatrical cut on this DVD.

On June 12th 2000 Sandro do Nascimento, a dispossessed Brazilian, took hostage the passengers of a bus in Rio de Janeiro. The resulting standoff between a violent youth and a near-incompetent police force became a media circus. The worldwide broadcast was, for many, simply another dramatic event happening somewhere far away. Another thrilling snippet of reality television, into this setting step the filmmakers Jose Padilha and Felipe Lacerda, in seamlessly blending together the events of that day, the childhood of a young man destined for disenfranchisement, and the hopeless world of so many Brazilians living in poverty, the directors reveal to us the tragedy that was Bus 174.
This film is perhaps the most intense documentary I have viewed in a long time. The directors offer beautiful, soaring shots of the Brazilian city as a counterpoint to the gut-wrenching close-ups of homeless men and women trying to eke out an existence in a social system that refuses to acknowledge they exist. The documentary cuts mainly between a series of perceptive talking heads - police, street kids and social commentators - and actual footage of the besieged bus. I felt the strongest part of the documentary was the way Padilha and Lacerda found the equilibrium between these two aspects of storytelling, and easily moved the substance of the film from the former to the latter as the story progressed.
The only criticism I had of the film is not truly a critique of the production itself. I found that the fast-paced nature of the storyline and - quite frankly - the speed of the talking, coupled with long, quick subtitles actually made this both a pleasure and a chore to watch. If you lose concentration for the merest second you can become thoroughly lost. But if you commit yourself to watching a truly dramatic piece of history, you will be rewarded substantially - the horrifying childhood of do Nascimento, including the death of his mother - and will be left shaken, moved to the point of impotent despair.
Bus 174 is a piece of cinematic artistry that I would learn Portuguese for. For those of you whose only experience with documentaries is the mass produced propaganda of the late Michael Moore (I know heís not dead - if only) then this film is a true gem, a shining example of the power of truth in cinema. The film makers find the perfect balance between their viewpoint and the events of that tragic day and bring to the screen a story that evokes anger, frustration, sadness and understanding. I donít know how else to say this, you MUST see this film.

Video

Presented in 1.66:1, this non-anamorphic transfer has a few problems. The documentary was shot largely on digital format, although some other footage from news sources are used as well so there transfer qualities vary from footage to footage. All the original documentary footage and interviews are quite sharp, although occasionally pixilation and blocking occurs, which can be distracting at times. The documentary footage also lacks any detail in shadows as well as black levels. The original news footage is quite grainy, especially the night footage and also lacks depth and sharpness. Overall we have a fairly standard image cut with some very rough looking news footage. Not the best but itís not the worst either.

Audio

A Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is the only one available here, audio is generally quite clear and distortion free for the most part, however some audio on the actual news footage from the event isnít always very clear and some hiss can be heard. The film is mainly dialogue based and for whatever dialogue isnít 100% distortion free the subtitles usually help you out considering the film is in Portuguese. One aspect regarding the track that I was most impressed with is Sancha Amback and Joao NabucoĎs breathtakingly disturbing score, which adds a definite weight and emotion to the actual hostage footage as well as the sweeping aerial shots of Rio de Janeiro.
While itís far from perfect for a stereo track it does the trick. As stated before the film includes optional subtitles in English. The yellow text did not have any misspellings or grammatical errors, the only complaint I have about these subtitles is the speed at which they appear on screen.

Extras

The only extra included on this disc is the filmís original theatrical trailer.

Overall

Bus 174 is a must see film and one of the best documentaries of the year. Itís thrilling and heartbreaking. Jose Padilha and Felipe Lacerda have shed a light on the increasing population of Brazilís dispossessed street kids and the social impact that has on the country. Digging deeper to expose the reasoning behind do Nascimentoís take over of Bus 174. Accent has included the film in its original 118 minute theatrical cut with a lackluster transfer and a slightly above average soundtrack to this incredible film. Sadly the only extra is the filmís trailer, frankly a film of this caliber is deserving of much better treatment.

The Film: A+ Video: C+ Audio: B+ Extras: D- Overall: C-

 


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