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Hector Babenco

Hector Babenco

Carandiru is Hector Babenco's eighth feature film. The Argentinean-born (Buenos Aires, 1946) Brazilian director began early in cinema (at 17), first as an extra in O Caradura, an Italian comedy directed by Dino Risi and filmed in Argentina. Then, at 19, he left for Europe. For four years (1966-1969), he was an extra in films by the Italian directors Sergio Corbucci and Giorgio Ferroni (masters of the spaghetti western) that were shot in Spain. He also worked as an extra in a film by Spanish director Mario Camus.

Babenco came to Brazil in 1969. Before directing his first film (the documentary The Fabulous Fittipaldi, produced in 1973 by Roberto Farias), he held down a series of jobs. I even sold gravestones, he recalls. In 1975, he directed his first fictional feature film: King of the Night, with Paulo José and Marilia Pera. Two years later he made Lúcio Flávio, Passenger of Agony, the fourth-largest box-office success in the history of Brazilian cinema.

His next film - Pixote (1980) - was to earn him international recognition. Pixote stunned audiences. American critics voted it one of the ten best foreign films of the 80s. Marilia Pera, who played Suely - the prostitute who pays moving tribute to Michelangelo's Pietd as she cradles the boy Pixote - was given an award by the New York Film Critics Circle.

The international prestige of Pixote was followed up by the director's next film-The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1984), starring William Hurt, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. Nominated by the Academy for numerous Oscars, Babenco's fifth feature film won in the Best Actor category for William Hurt.

That started the American phase of Babenco's career. He directed Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in Ironweed in 1987. He returned to a Brazilian setting in 1990 with At Play in the Fields of the Lord, filmed in the Amazon with a U. S. production team. The cast included Kathy Bates, Tom Waits, Tom Berenger and Daryl Hannah.

Eight years later, Babenco - after overcoming lymphatic cancer thanks to a bone marrow transplant - made his first film in the country of his birth, Argentina (Foolish Heart). Brazilians and Argentineans made up the production team, the cast and the technical personnel.

Now, with Carandiru, the filmmaker is returning to the social issue that shot him to fame. The inmates of the vast House of Detention can be seen as the logical outcome of the pixotes who fled from youth correctional facilities twenty years earlier to risk their lives in the multiplicity of crimes that occur on the streets of major Brazilian cities.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Hector Babenco Facts

Birth NameHéctor Eduardo Babenco
BirthdayFebruary 7, 1946 (78)
BirthplaceBuenos Aires, Argentina

Selected Filmography

At Play in the Fields of the Lord
Kiss of the Spider Woman
El Pasado
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