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Pixote (1980 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHéctor Babenco
Written byHéctor Babenco
Jorge Durán
Based onA Infância dos Mortos
by José Louzeiro
Produced byHéctor Babenco
Paulo Francini
Jose Pinto
StarringFernando Ramos da Silva
Jorge Julião
Gilberto Moura
Edilson Lino
CinematographyRodolfo Sánchez
Edited byLuiz Elias
Music byJohn Neschling,"Love Caravan" composed, produced & performed by Jimmie Raye.
H.B. Filmes
Distributed byEmbrafilme
Release date
  • September 26, 1980 (1980-09-26)
Running time
128 minutes

Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco (Portuguese pronunciation: [piˈʃɔtʃi a ˈlej du ˈmajʃ ˈfɾaku], lit. "Pixote (small child): The Law of the Weakest") is a 1980 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Héctor Babenco. The screenplay was written by Babenco and Jorge Durán, based on the book A Infância dos Mortos (The Childhood of the Dead Ones) by José Louzeiro.

It is a documentary-like account of Brazil's delinquent youth and how they are used by corrupt police and other crime organizations to commit crimes. The film features Fernando Ramos da Silva (who was killed at the age of 19 by Brazilian police in São Paulo) as Pixote and Marília Pêra as Sueli. The plot revolves around Pixote, a young boy who is used as a child criminal in muggings and drug transport.


After a police round up of street children, Pixote a 10-year-old boy is sent to a juvenile reformatory (FEBEM). The prison is a hellish school where Pixote uses glue sniffing as a means of emotional escape from the constant threats of abuse and rape.

It soon becomes clear that the young criminals are only pawns in the criminal, sadistic games of the prison guards and their commander.

When a boy dies of physical abuse by the guards, the officials frame (and ultimately kill) the lover of the trans woman known as Lilica for the murder.

Soon after, Pixote, his friend Chico, Lilica and her new lover Dito find an opportunity to flee from the prison. First, they stay at the apartment of Cristal, a former lover of Lilica, but when tensions arise they go to Rio for a cocaine drug deal; there, however, they get duped by showgirl Débora.

After some time bumming around the city, Pixote and his friends go to a club for another drug deal. While there, Pixote finds Débora and stabs her.

They become pimps for the prostitute Sueli who is definitely past her prime and is ill — possibly from a botched abortion. The group conspires to rob her johns, but when Lilica's lover Dito falls for Sueli, Lilica leaves. The robbery scheme fails when an American john fights back (because he apparently does not understand Portuguese) so they have to shoot him. In the ensuing fight, Pixote accidentally shoots and kills Dito as well.

Pixote tries to gain comfort from Sueli, treating her as a mother figure by sucking on her breast, but she rejects him out of disgust. He leaves and walks down a railway line, gun in hand, disappearing in the distance.




The movie is shot in the manner of a documentary and shows the strong influence by Italian neorealism in that amateur actors were used whose real lives strongly resembled those of the protagonists in the film.

Filming locations[edit]

It was filmed in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The film features several scenes of Rio's beaches. Historical places in São Paulo like 'Viaduto do Chá' and the statue 'Monumento às Bandeiras' (at the Ibirapuera Park) are seen throughout the film.


The film was first presented at the New York New Directors/New Films Festival on May 5, 1981. Later it opened on a limited basis in the United States on September 11, 1981.

The film was shown at various film festivals, including the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Spain; the Toronto Festival of Festivals, Canada; the Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland; and others.

Critical reception[edit]

Film critic Roger Ebert, who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, considered the film a classic, and wrote, "Pixote stands alone in Babenco's work, a rough, unblinking look at lives no human being should be required to lead. And the eyes of Fernando Ramos da Silva, his doomed young actor, regard us from the screen not in hurt, not in accusation, not in regret - but simply in acceptance of a desolate daily reality."[1]

Critic Pauline Kael was impressed by its raw, documentary-like quality, and a certain poetic realism. She wrote, "Babenco's imagery is realistic, but his point of view is shockingly lyrical. South American writers, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, seem to be in perfect, poetic control of madness, and Babenco has some of this gift, too. South American artists have to have it, in order to express the texture of everyday insanity."[2]

The New York Times film critic, Vincent Canby, liked the neo-realist acting and direction of the drama, and wrote, "[Pixote], the third feature film by the Argentine-born Brazilian director Hector Babenco, is a finely made, uncompromisingly grim movie about the street boys of São Paulo, in particular about Pixote - which, according to the program, translates roughly as Peewee...The performances are almost too good to be true, but Mr. Da Silva and Miss Pera are splendid. Pixote is not for the weak of stomach. A lot of the details are tough to take, but it is neither exploitative nor pretentious. Mr. Babenco shows us rock-bottom, and because he is an artist, he makes us believe it as well all of the possibilities that have been lost."[3]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a positive score of 93% based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10.[4] Although it was accepted as the Brazilian submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film it was later disqualified since it was test marketed in Brazil before the allowable date.[5]

Filmmakers Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Harmony Korine, Martin Scorsese, and the Safdie brothers have cited it as being among their favorite films.[6]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, film review, September 12, 2004.
  2. ^ Kael, Pauline. Pixote, Foreign Affairs: The National Society of Film Critics' Video Guide to Foreign Films, editor: Kathy Schulz Huffhines, Mercury House: San Francisco, 1991, p. 498.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (May 5, 1981). "Babenco's Pixote Show the Boys of Brazil". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  4. ^ Pixote at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: May 30, 2022.
  5. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (21 February 1989). "Nomination Intricacies For Foreign-Film Oscar". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  6. ^ / Spike Lee - Calling The Shots at BBC. Last accessed: October 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "1981 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016.

External links[edit]