Filmmaker Hector Babenco Dies at 70

On Wednesday night (the 13th), at 70, filmmaker Hector Babenco died.

He suffered a heart attack around 11 pm and was taken to the Sírio Libanês Hospital. The information was confirmed by his ex-wife, Raquel Arnaud and by Marcelo Torres, producer of his films.

An Argentine rooted in Brazil, Babenco was one of the most important filmmakers in the country. He directed "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985), a film which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director and the Best Actor award for William Hurt.

Babenco was born in Mar del Plata in 1946, a son of Jewish immigrants. His father, an Anti-Peronist, was a tailor, and he practiced the same profession until age 17. At that time he left Argentina to avoid having to serve in the military and went to travel in Europe. He landed in Brazil in 1969, already married to Italian Fiorella Giovagnolli.

Living in São Paulo in the late 60's and early 70's, he worked as an encyclopedia salesman and restaurant photographer. At the request of the Municipal Culture Secretary, he produced his first documentary in 1972 about Masp (São Paulo Art Museum).

In the following year, he portrayed the life of race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi in "The Fabulous Fittipaldi".

But he really gained notoriety when he turned to the cinema of fiction. His first feature film of the genre was "The King of the Night" (1975), which tells the story of Tertuliano (Paulo José), son of a traditional family that falls into a Bohemian (fig) lifestyle - and into the arms of the prostitute Lupi (Marília Pêra).

He also directed acclaimed feature films like "Pixote: Law of the Weak" (1982), about a poor São Paulo boy who was harbored and molded by a prostitute played by Marília Pêra. "Pixote" was nominated for a Golden Globe the same year for best foreign film and garnered international attention for the director.

In the 90's, the director was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system and underwent chemotherapy. This served as the inspiration for his last film, the semi-autobiography "My Hindo Friend", released last year. The movie features filmmaker (Willem Dafoe) grappling with an aggressive tumor.

In 2003, still recovering from cancer, he undertook "Carandiru" inspired by "Estação Carandiru" (Carandiru Station), from Drauzio Varella, a columnist for Folha. Wagner Moura, Caio Blat, and Milhem Courtza live as prisoners in this film which is one of the most expensive Brazilian cinema productions and portrays the massacre in the penitentiary.

The filmmaker is survived by two daughters, Myra and Janka. Funeral services for the director will be at Cinemateca, São Paulo, this Friday the 15th, from 10 am to 3 pm, in the foyer of the BNDES hall.


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