Film & Television

Fernando Ramos da Silva as Pixote


 Pixote
Hector Babenco's 1981 movie, "Pixote," poignantly and realistically depicts the street life which young abandonados are exposed to in cities of present day Brazil. An abandonado is a boy who either has been completely abandoned by his impoverished parents, or, if he lives with his family, must hustle the streets in order to make money. There are three million totally abandoned abandonados in Brazil today, and "Pixote" depicts aspects of life common to these boys.

        Of remarkable interest here is the fact that the boys who appear in the movie are in fact abandonados. They are not actors; rather, they are boys, mostly teenagers (but some very much younger) who are acting out a documentary about their society. Throughout this beautiful and unsettling movie-documentary, a host of contrasts are crisply projected. There are boys who live in poverty; these young "actors" are associated with relationships with friends their own age or slightly older. The friendships are marked by tenderness, and they often grow into a meaningful and passionate love relationship. Several gay relationships in the movie acutely define and pinpoint Babenco's most important themes. The poor boys are also associated with music, song, and dance. There are sounds of a laughing joyful music wherever the boys go. There is music in the courtyard of the reformatory, there is a natural, rhythmical dance in the slums of Rio. The boys, especially the most sensitive, beautiful, poor and desperate ones, also love nature, and a sense of peace and quiet wherever they can find it. But there is little peace, quiet, or freedom for the boys in Sao Paulo or in Rio. Yet the most tender scenes in "Pixote" are in fact those few fleeting instances where boys, often lovers, find a relaxing and ecstatic scene (a beach overlooking Rio, land running along the train tracks between Sao Paulo and Rio, secluded woods not far from an expensive disco) and can celebrate friendship among themselves.

        Contrasted to these beautiful (by the end of the movie, every boy seems to grow in beauty and in intensity to escape and even overthrow the power structure), sincere, generally good willed, and loving boys are the powerful factors which imprison the young actors and perpetuate such tremendous poverty. There is a rich pimp, there are adults dealing in drugs who rip off what little money the young boys have, there are weapons - loaded guns that kill. Tragically, the boys grow to accept guns and knives; there is even a tendency to think of guns as a status symbol.  Ultimately the main character, Pixote, kills with both a gun and a knife. With a gun, he kills one of his best friends; his best friend, who had nearly been his lover, gets killed with a knife by a striptease dancer employed by a wealthy pimp. So big money, wealthy people, and weapons kill and destroy the more passionate and ecstatic relationships innocently and joyfully formed by the lower-class boys.

        The movie-documentary does demonstrate, and most convincingly so, that many of the boys want this system to end. They know that the system is bad and wrong; there are many indications of rebellion and of the boys' interests in improving life not only for themselves, but for all lower class children in Brazil. There is a conscious growth of class awareness in the movie as the young boys realize that poverty is an evil that should not exist. The boys through their friendships, love, and music reveal that they celebrate life, but that poverty must be abolished.

        The first half of the movie is played by real boys in a real reformatory. The main character, Pixote, is exposed to gang rape and to a loving gay relationship that is shared between a white and a black boy.  All of the boys accept the relationship, and Pixote sees that there is true love in the gay friendship.

        In contract to friendship, the guards in the institution are brutal and corrupt.  After they torture and murder the black gay boy most of the other boys rebel and escape (the white lover in an acute sense of loss slashes his wrists).

        A wealthy man becomes the lover of another gay boy, and in time the man (also a pimp) gives drugs to the boys to sell in Rio.  The boys then take a train from Sao Paulo to Rio. They believe that they will become rich once they trade their drugs in for money.

        The most memorable scene in the movie then takes place overlooking a large body of water next to downtown Rio. Pixote and his friends discuss what they will do when they get their money. In the most moving scene in the movie, each boy discusses what he believes his life will now be like. One boy wants to buy expensive cars and guns. More interesting, another boy wants to search for ways to overthrow the system that had made him suffer, physically and emotionally, his whole life. He wants to find the guard who had beaten him for no reason a year earlier. These noble sentiments attract Pixote to this boy; their friendship grows, and the audience in a most brief scene sees Pixote and his friend in each other's arms. Pixote has found love, and he does not want any part of the ruling class. The scene is one of the most powerful expressions of love and friendship ever displayed in a movie.

        The movie quickly moves to its conclusion. Pixote and his surviving friends are taken in by a prostitute who brings men to her small apartment; there, the boys rob the men. One customer, a man from the United States, fights the boys; in the struggle, Pixote accidently kills one of his friends, before shooting the man.  Pixote must leave, and he leaves all by himself.

        With a proud yet suffering look on his experienced young face (he hardly looks thirteen), Pixote collects all his belongings in a small suitcase and leaves Rio. At the very end of the movie he casts a pondering look (not a hopeless look, but not a very hopeful expression either) behind him as he walks on the train tracks away from Rio. He came here with three friends; now his best friend is dead, he has killed another, and he has no money. Yet life will go on.

        Pixote will not compromise with the ruling class. He escaped from their reformatory, and he has killed the person who had stolen from him. Still, the movie-documentary demonstrates that life for Pixote will be bleak. Life in 1982 is bleak for poor young boys in Brazil.

        "Pixote" is a powerful indictment of Latin American capitalism, but more than that, the movie shows the beautiful loving relationships that are formed among the young, poor boys living in the streets of Brazil. Although love doesn't conquer all, these boys find love in spite of the 
poverty and repression.



From the NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 3, Pg. 10, April 1983
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2006

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