Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco (Portuguese pronunciation: [piˈʃɔtʃi a ˈlej du ˈmajʃ ˈfɾaku], Pixote (small child): The Law of the Weakest) is a 1981 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.
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 transgendered effeminate boy known as Lilica (Jorge Julião), for the murder. This lover then conveniently also dies, with some help from the guards.
Soon after, Pixote, Lilica and her new lover 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 when Lilica’s lover Dito falls for Sueli, Lillica 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, but she rejects him. He leaves and 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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Filmmakers Spike Lee and Harmony Korine have cited it as their favorite film.
File under Cult Movies, Drunk Kids, Influences, It Only Gets Worse, SeMeN SPeRmS BLArRrG, SeMeN SPeRmS ViDeO CLuB, Sex