Hector Babenco

07.02.1946, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina - 13.07.2016, São Paulo, Brazil



Babenco was a director, screenwriter and producer. He was born as Héctor Eduardo Babenco and grew up in Argentina. From 1964 to 1968, he lived in Europe and worked on different jobs. That is when he got introduced to Spanish film and started to work as an extra on film sets. In 1969, he decided to live in São Paulo in Brazil. Namely, because he did not want to serve in the army he deserted and thus was not allowed to come back to Argentina. In 1977 he became the citizen of Brazil. Without any formal education in film, together with Robert Farias, he directed the documentary O Fabuloso Fittipaldi (1973) about the life and work of the famous Brazilian car race driver. He made his directing debut with the feature film O Rei da Noite (1975), romantic drama taking place in the 1940’s. His next film, biographical drama Lúcio Flávio, o passageiro da agonia (1977) about the Brazilian bank robber, was quite successful and popular. Babenco won the audience’s award for best film at the international film festival in São Paulo in 1977. Afterwards, he adapted for film the book Pixote (Pixote: A lei do mais fraco, 1981) about abandoned children living on the streets of Brazil, their growing-up, the horrors of youth centers, corrupt police and criminals who take advantage of those kids. The film features real kids from the streets and the film was popular in Brazil as well as abroad. His next film was done in Brazilian and American co-production and it was another adaptation of a literary original Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) starring William Hurt, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. Both the film and the director were nominated for an Oscar and Hurt won it as best actor. Thanks to the success of this film, Babenco directed another drama in the US, Ironweed (1987) starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, but it was not as successful as his previous one. Then he directed the drama At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) and shot in Brazil and Venezuela starring American actors. Unfortunately, it went unnoticed and afterwards his career slowed down. In 1994 he learned that he had cancer and had to undergo a transplantation of bone marrow. Several years later he returned to directing and made the romantic drama Foolish Heart (Corazón iluminado, 1998) starring South American actors.  His next success was the ambitious project Carandiru (2003), true story about the prison and its inmates, shot on the original location and starring real prisoners. The film was based on the book written by the former prison doctor who also treated Babenco. Carandiru was the most popular film of the year in Brazil and later a TV show was made based on it. It was also popular in other countries around the world. Babenco’s next project was the romantic drama El pasado (2007). He directed a segment of the omnibus featuring several directors Words with Gods (2014), and his last film is My Hindu Friend (2015), drama with Willem Dafoe who portrays a dying director. He died after a heart attack a year later.


My Hindu Friend (2015)
Words with Gods (2014) (omnibus, segment "The Man That Stole a Duck")
El pasado (2007)
Carandiru, Outras Histórias (TV series, 2 episodes)
Carandiru (2003)
Corazón iluminado (1998)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)
Ironweed (1987)
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
A terra é redonda como uma laranja (1984)  (documentary)
Pixote: A lei do mais fraco (1981)
Lúcio Flávio, o passageiro da agonia (1977)
O rei da noite (1975)
O fabuloso Fittipaldi (1973) (documentary, co-director)

Films by this director


(Brazil, 2003)

Directed by: Hector Babenco
PHOTOGRAPHY: Walter Carvalho

This drama is based on the book by the doctor, AIDS specialist who worked in the Carandiru prison, one of the biggest and most violent prisons in Latin America. In 1992, there was a big massacre in which the police murdered more than a hundred inmates. The film was shot in the original location with former prisoners as actors, and the prison was torn down before the film was released. Through the doctor’s narration and short episodically told stories we learn about life in prison and meet...

color, digital, 145 min


(Pixote: a lei do mais fraco, Brazil, 1981)

Directed by: Hector Babenco
PHOTOGRAPHY: Rodolfo Sánchez

This films portrays brutal growing-up on the streets of São Paulo where children quickly lose their innocence in contact with crime, prostitution and violence. The protagonist is the ten-year-old kid Pixote who gets picked up by the police together with other homeless kids and sends them to a youth center for underage delinquents. There his life becomes even worse, and he starts to sniff glue in order to endure the violence and molesting carries out by the guards. Most of the young actor...

color, digital, 128 min

Lucio Flavio

(Lúcio Flávio, o passageiro da agonia, Brazil, 1977)

Directed by: Hector Babenco
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lauro Escorel

The film is based on the life story of Lúcio Flávio, Brazilian bandit from the 1970’s who was famous for his bank robberies and spectacular escapes. He lived in Rio de Janeiro, and before he was murdered in the prison in 1975, he discovered a network of corrupt cops and provided information to the Death Squad, group of policemen who killed criminals without a trial

color, digital, 118 min

King of the Night

(O rei da noite, Brazil, 1975)

Directed by: Hector Babenco
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lauro Escorel

  Old Tertuliano tells his life story. He was born in the 1920’s in São Paulo, and his first encounter with love was an unhappy one. Aninha, the girl he was in love with, was ill and had to move to Europe and they kept in touch through letters. Tertuliano started to study law and worked with his uncle, and his second love interest was the prostitute and cabaret singer called Queen of the Night. Then he met three daughters of his mother’s friend and had romantic relations...

color, digital, 97 min

Kiss of the Spider Woman

(Brazil, 1985)

Directed by: Hector Babenco
PHOTOGRAPHY: Rodolfo Sánchez

In a Brazilian prison two prisoners share a cell. They are completely different people: one is a transgender dreamer Luis Molina convicted for immoral behavior (sex with a minor) and the other is leftist activist and political prisoner Valentin Arregui. Trying to pass the time, Luis tells a story woven from two films and his own life. At first Valentin is against one of the films as it is Nazi propaganda but Luis focuses on the romantic aspect of the story. While the guards torture Valentin and...

color, digital, 120 min
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