Héctor Babenco

Active - 1973 - 2020  |   Born - Feb 7, 1946   |   Died - Jul 13, 2016   |   Genres - Drama

Share on

Biography by Sandra Brennan

Brazilian filmmaker Hector Babenco was an internationally acclaimed director noted for his socially conscientious films that center on the people who live on the fringe of established society. During the 1970s, Babenco was influential in the development of his country's post-cinema nôvo movement. Babenco was born to Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At age 18, he became interested in Beat authors and existential philosophy and decided to go on a "divine mission" to see the world. He spent seven years wandering over Africa, Europe, and North America, working at a variety of jobs. At one point he was an extra in Spanish and Italian spaghetti westerns. Babenco finally landed in Brazil in 1971 where he became intrigued with its new cinema and decided to become a filmmaker. Unfortunately, that year, the country's reigning military regime began heavily censoring the films and exiling most of the cinema nôvo directors. Babenco remained laying low, learning the art of filmmaking by doing documentaries, short films and commercials. At the same time, he began working on his first feature film, King of the Night (1975). In 1978, Babenco became the object of death threats and antagonism for his inflammatory drama Lucio Flavio (1978). Despite the controversy surrounding the film, it became the fourth highest grossing film in Brazil and helped reestablish the country's languishing film industry. Babenco first gained international acclaim for his 1981 film Pixote, a film which chronicled the daily misery faced by Brazil's burgeoning population of street children. The film is almost a documentary and centers on the improvisations of real homeless children. His first U.S. feature Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director and won an Oscar for star William Hurt. He teamed up with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep for his next film, Ironweed (1987). Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Babenco took a break from the film industry for several years, and once recovered, worked mostly in Brazil with films like Foolish Heart (1998) and Carandiru (2003). His final film, My Hindu Friend (2015), starred Willem Dafoe and tells the story of a film director who is dying. Babenco passed away in 2016, at age 70.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography