Padilha’s Intentional Neutrality in Bus 174 Essay

Padilha’s Intentional Neutrality in Bus 174 Essay

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In that hot, disturbing summer afternoon in 2000, about thirty-five million Brazilian people watched live, as Keough refers, the “reality TV at its most intense” Bus 174 hijacking incident. From then on, there are thirty-five million individual stories about what happened: the reasons, the motivations, the consequences, the hijacker, the hostages, and the police officers are all differently interpreted even though thousands of cameras were aimed at the same man at the same time. Reality is relative to the observer. Director José Padilha would certainly agree with such an argument as he claims to carry a “neutral tone” about the event in his documentary film Bus 174(Rother). Larry Rother also points out in his review of the film that “without either editorializing or flinching, Mr. Padilha shows a police force that is both incompetent and violent.” This illustration of police system, however, hints a question whether the director attempts to deliberately draw audience's attention on the rescuer rather than hijacker. Although his critical depiction of the law enforcement in Rio seems to challenge his intention of fairness, Padilha’s perspective on Brazilian justice system that the police force lacks discipline and integrity during the crisis reflects his outright and detached viewpoint on this particular event as a filmmaker.
This is an unfair story from the very beginning; Padilha’s goal of staying neutral can only be achieved by him balancing existing prejudice from the public and taking a more critical approach of directing. Without knowing any background, the audience have already been influenced by the definitions of “hijack” and “hostage” when these words are used by police, media, or any stranger on the street. As a matte...

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...ld and Mark Cousins. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1996. 97. Print.
Keough, Peter. “Onibus 174/Bus 174.” The Boston Phoenix, 5-11 Dec. 2003. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.
Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2010. Print.
Padilha, José, Felipe Lacerda, João Nabuco, and Sacha Amback. Bus 174: Ônibus 174. New York: Hart Sharp,2004. DVD.
Peixoto, Marta. “Rio’s Favelas in Recent Fiction and Film: Commonplaces of Urban Segregation.” PMLA 122.1 (Jan. 2007): 170-8. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.
Pryluck, Calvin. “Ultimately We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filming.” Journal of the University Film Association 28.1 (Winter 1976): 21-9. JSTOR. Web. 22 May 2013.
Rohter, Larry. “A Horrific Crime that Was Seen by Millions.” The New York Times, 7 Sept. 2003. Web. 23 Aug. 2012.

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