Hector Babenco’s life has something that belongs to the XVIth Century pioneers: He does not necessarily go back to the point of origin. He was born in 1946 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. In a world where the Cold War was sprouting, and prominent Nazis found refuge in various Latin American countries. The place that had benefited from the little enthusiasm that Hollywood belic propaganda movies generated in the boom of the national cinemas. At 18 years old and in the presence of constant conflicts with his father, Babenco migrates to Europe where he is taken as a movie extra. Through his implacable tenacity, he becomes assistant to filmmakers like Mario Bava, Mario Camus and Sergio Corbucci. After his immersion in the most populist genres of the European cinema, Babenco goes to Sao Paulo, Brazil’s cultural capital.
In 1975 he makes his debut with Rey de la noche as director of fiction films. He hones his method of working with scarce resources and locates the story in the laws of cinematographic genres with his second long feature, Lucio Flavio (1977,) the chronicle of a local gangster. His first big hit arrives in 1981, when he is 35 years old and undertakes the adaptation of José Louzeiro’s novel about the life of street children in Sao Paulo: Pixote. His filming method, half way between documentary and Italian Neorealism, appears as particularly attractive for the continent’s filmmakers.
The next step is riskier: to adapt Manuel Puig’s novel titled: El beso de la mujer araña. The novel describes the jail encounter between a homsexual cinephile with a crave for American Classics and a hardened guerrilla combatant. The premiere in 1985 acquires unusual relevance due to the fact that in 1984, AIDS is at last recognized as an epidemic. Its screening occurs during one of the harshest homophobic campaigns of the XXth Century. Being a coproduction Brazil-U.S., The Kiss...debuts in New York where it is acclaimed. It screens in all of Europe and Latin America. And Babenco is the first Latin American nominee to an Oscar. Here is where the pioneer’s experience ends.
In 1994 Hector Babenco is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that transforms his life into a 22- year battle. In spite of the illness, his passion for cinema allows him to culminate his career with a biopic: Meu amigo hindu, which FICG LA is honoured to present.
In his posthumous homage, Variety magazine called him “the bard of the helpless.” He was one of the cinema masters who provoked a profound change in the face of our cinematographies.
— Gerardo Salcedo Romero