Hijacked Reality

Terror, real and blockbuster-inspired.


“This ain’t no action movie,” warns the hijacker of bus 174 in Padilha’s riveting documentary. Or maybe, in a way, it is. In the summer of 2000, a young S&atildeo Paulo man held a half-dozen hostages — and untold Brazilian television viewers — captive for nearly five hours, sprinkling his threats with references to a popular blockbuster.

This real-life TV villain displays a certain brute ingenuity, banking on the standards and practices of prime-time news — the reluctance of network executives and police officers alike to broadcast a bloodbath — to prolong his performance. Padilha, for his part, remains true to the spectacle, extracting the maximum drama from the footage of the hijacking. (His climactic use of slow motion is sensational in more ways than one.)

Yet Bus 174 is most remarkable for examining how terror is bred by poverty and neglect. A sociologist in the film remarks that society’s “incapacity to deal with social exclusion” pushes the youth of Rio’s slums into violence. “We are nothing if someone doesn’t look at us,” he says.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2018 demands.