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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Hector Babenco
Produced by Executive Producer:
Sylvia B. Naves
Hector Babenco
Paulo Francini
Jose Pinto
Written by Screenplay:
Hector Babenco
Jorge Durán
José Louzeiro
Starring Fernando Ramos Da Silva
Jorge Julião
Gilberto Moura
Edilson Lino
Music by John Neschling
Cinematography Rodolfo Sánchez
Editing by Luiz Elias
Release date(s) May 5, 1981
(United States)
Running time 128 minutes
Country Brazil
Language Portuguese

Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco (English: Pixote: The Law of the Weakest), (1981) is a Brazilian drama film directed by Hector 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.[1]

It is the chilling, 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 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, they frame the lover of the transgender girl Lilica (Jorge Julião), for the murder. This lover then conveniently also dies, with some help from the guards.

Soon after, Pixote, Lilica, and Dito (Gilberto Moura) find an opportunity to flee from the prison. First they stay at the apartment of Cristal (Tony Tornado), a former lover of Lilica, but when tensions arise they go to Rio for a cocaine drug deal; there, however, they get duped by a showgirl.

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

They become pimps for the prostitute Sueli who is definitely past her prime and is possibly ill from a botched abortion. The group conspires to rob her johns, but that 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 Dito as well.

Later, Pixote, after being rejected by the mother figure of Sueli, is seen walking down a railway line, gun in hand, away from the camera, his figure disappearing in the distance, out of the film's view.


  • Fernando Ramos Da Silva as Pixote
  • Jorge Julião as Lilica
  • Gilberto Moura as Dito
  • Edilson Lino as Chico
  • Zenildo Oliveira Santos as Fumaça
  • Claudio Bernardo as Garatao
  • Israel Feres David as Roberto Pie de Plata
  • Jose Nilson Martin Dos Santos as Diego
  • Marília Pêra as Sueli
  • Jardel Filho as Sapatos Brancos
  • Rubens de Falco as Juiz
  • Elke Maravilha as Debora
  • Tony Tornado as Cristal
  • Beatriz Segall as Widower
  • João José Pompeo as Almir


The movie is shot in documentary fashion and strongly influenced by Italian neo-realism in that amateur actors were used whose real lives strongly resembled those of the protagonists in the film.

Filming locations
It was filmed in crime-ridden locations in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The film also features several beautiful scenes of Rio's beaches.

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 Film Festival, Canada; the Locarno International Film Festival, Spain; and others.

Critical reception

Pixote and friends.

Film critic Roger Ebert, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, considers 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."[2]

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."[3]

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."[4]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on eight reviews.[5]





  1. ^ Pixote at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, film review, September 12, 2004.
  3. ^ 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, page 498.
  4. '^ Canby, Vincent. The New York Times, film review, "Babenco's Pixote Show the Boys of Brazil," May 5, 1981. Last accessed: December 31, 2007.
  5. ^ Pixote at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: March 26, 2008.

External links

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