Two reviews that put life in perspective

Review of "My Flesh and Blood" directed by Jonathan Karsh *** 1/2
Review of "Bus 174" directed by Jose Padiha **** 1/2

I decided to combine these two reviews because both films portray the lives of people who for different reasons have been dealt an unfair hand. Trust me, after watching these two films your problems will seem insignificant.

The first film by Jonathan Karsh revolves around a former nurse and divorced mother who has taken it upon herself to adopt and care for 11 disabled kids. This is a hard film to watch because the disabilities are so severe. But it doesn’t take long to get to know and care for each of them. Despite their physical and emotional problems, they each make the best of a difficult situation, thanks in large part to the efforts of their caretaker Susan Tom. The sacrifice she and her two daughters make in caring for these children is commendable. She is their mother, nurse, psychiatrist, and social worker.

The filmmakers delve into the backgrounds of Susan and several of the kids. Susan’s only source of income is what she receives from the state for caring for the children. What ever she gets, it isn’t enough. Few people could take on the challenges that she has taken on. As for the children, the one child who on the outside seems to be the most normal, turns out to be the most troubled. He is also one of three children with life a threatening disease.

I was touched by all of the kids, but the one child who will remain in my thoughts is Faith. Faith, I hope you read this and know that I’m rooting for you.

The second film by Jose Padiha tells the story of a bus hijacking that took place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2000. The actual hijacking is perhaps the most photographed and filmed hijacking in history. But unlike the major media that covered the incident, Jose’s interest goes beyond the actual hijacking. He is also interested in showing the psychological makeup of the hijacker and what led to such a dangerous act.

Sandro do Nascimento is a troubled youth in his early twenties whose dream was to find a job and one day be famous. But Sandro’s mother was murdered in front of him and he was forced to live in the streets. This led to petty crimes and drugs. He was arrested and sent to jail. That experience more than any other is at the heart of this story. As you learn how poorly he was treated by the Brazilian police and the harsh, inhumane living conditions in prison, you begin to understand his motives. Going back to jail was not an option.

The director expertly weaves background material in with the drama of the hijacking. This is one of those stories that pulls you in to the point that you can’t look away from the screen for a minute for fear you might miss something.

One of the most telling background stories involves the massacre of seven street children by police. Sandro was among the children that were attacked. Later in a call in radio show the general consensus by those calling in is that the killings were a good thing. The street kids were becoming a problem and killing them was a justifiable way of dealing with the problem.

The film is in Portuguese with subtitles.

I recommend both films.

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