Hector Babenco

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Hector Babenco
Hector Babenco www.filmfestivals.com/berlin/ 2001/gallery2.shtml

Article

Latin America - made in Hollywood

Born in Buenos Aires in Argentina in 1946, Hector Babenco spent several years as a young man in travelling round Europe, Africa and North America before settling in São Paulo in the early 70s. A self-taught film-maker, he planned his first films in the style of cinema novo but, due to the prevalence of Latin American censorship at the time, was unable to make them. Later he succeeded and won many awards but, even while producing his films in the USA in the 80s, he still chose critical and uncomfortable themes, drawing attention to Latin American poverty, corruption and injustice.
Born in Buenos Aires in Argentina in 1946, Hector Babenco was thrilled by existentialism in his youth and travelled at the age of 18 to Europe. Various part-time jobs enabled him to pay his way on a trip lasting several years and taking him finally to Africa and North America. On returning to South America, he chose to live in the metropolis São Paulo but was prevented from producing his first films in the style of cinema novo by South American censors, so he earned his living with documentary and short films as well as commercials. In !975 he directed his first full-length feature film, O Rei da Noite (King of the Night).
Only two years later Hector Babenco had a phenomenal box-office success with the action thriller Lucio Flavio. This true history of the life of a bank-robber lightened the purses of 5 400 000 viewers and became the fourth best box-office success of the year, putting the Brazilian film industry on a new footing and winning the Viewers’ Prize at the international film festival in São Paulo.

In 1981 there followed Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (Pixote: Survival of the Weakest), a film about street children in the suburbs of São Paulo. For the male lead, Babenco chose Fernando Ramos de Silva, who was 10 years old at the time and came from a poor family. Fernando played a lad who lives on the streets as a drug-peddler, pimp and murderer, on having fled from violence at home and at school. The film brought Babenco the New York Film Critics’ Prize, and Marilia Pera the prize for the best female co-actor. A few years later the young screen-murderer was murdered off-screen by Brazilian police on resisting arrest.

Hector Babenco’s best known film The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1984) is an adaptation of a novel by the Argentinean writer Manuel Puig. For the first time Hector Babenco worked with world-famous colleagues, a ploy which he has since continued. At this time it was easier for him to direct critical films under the commercial pressure of Hollywood than under the political pressure of Brazil.

The Kiss of the Spider Woman is an intimate drama set mainly in a prison cell. Valentin Arregui, a political dissident, is cooped up with a homosexual sex-offender, Luis Molina, who helps him forget the pains of torture by telling him the sugary story-lines of romantic propaganda films. When the film was shown at the Cannes’ festival, it brought William Hurt the prize for best acting for his role as Molinas and was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures for 4 Oscars - for best film, best producer, best adaptation and best actor. William Hurt’s Oscar was his second award as an actor, and he later won the British Academy Award. The tale was then staged on Broadway as a musical.

In 1987 Hector Babenco filmed Ironweed, a novel from the Pulitzer prize-winner William Kennedy. The two leads, Jack Nicholsen and Meryl Streep, were both nominated for Oscars for their acting. In 1991 Babenco worked with the successful producer Saul Zaets (One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The English Patient) on At Play in the Fields of the Lord with a script from Peter Mathissen. The actors Tom Berenger und Daryll Hannah went to work with Babenco in his homeland by the Amazon.

A personal setback interrupted Babenco’s film career, then after recovering from bone-marrow transplantation, he directed a very personal film – the youthful romance Foolish Heart (1998) – first shown in Cannes. In 2001 he was a member of the jury at Berlin’s International Film Festival.


Events at the HKW:
Friday, 10th November, 1989
Der andere Blick (The other Point of View)
The third world in films from home and abroad
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco / The Survival of the Weakest
Organiser: House of World Cultures

Sunday, 14th June, 1992
500 Years of Latin America
Film series
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco / Survival of the Weakest
Organiser: House of World Cultures

Friday, 23rd October, 1992
Woche des politischen Gefangenen (Week of political prisoners)
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco / Survival of the Weakest
Organiser: Amnesty International together with the House of World Cultures

Wednesday, 12th October, 1994
Wednesday cinema
Cinema Novo
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco / Survival of the Weakest
Organiser: SUR Films in Cologne together with the House of World Cultures

Author: Gabriele Gillner

Bio

Hector Babenco was born on 7th February, 1946, in Mar de Plata, Buenos Aires in Argentina, as the son of Russian and Polish immigrants. At the age of 18 he was enthralled by existentialism and travelled to Europe, where he paid his way by various kinds of jobbing. From Europe he moved on to Africa and North America, then on his return to South America chose the metropolis São Paulo as his new home. Political censorship prevented him from making films in the style of cinema novo, so he began by making documentary and short films as well as commercials. In 1975 he made his first feature: O Rei da Noite (King of the Night).
Even today Babenco lives in São Paulo, whose poor residents are at the heart of his films. Since his first American production The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1984), he has produced all his films in the USA.

Works

El Pasado

Film / TV,
2007

Carandiru

Film / TV,
2003

Corazon iluminado / Foolish Heart

Film / TV,
1998

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

Film / TV,
1991

Ironweed

Film / TV,
1987

Beijo da Mulher Aranha, A. / Kiss of the Spider Woman

Film / TV,
1984

Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco / Pixote, Survival of the Weakest

Film / TV,
1981

Lucio Flavio, o Passageiro da Agonia / Lucio Flavio

Film / TV,
1977

O Rei da Noite / King of the Night

Film / TV,
1975