Argentinean-born Brazilian filmmaker Héctor Babenco died of a heart attack last night at a hospital in Sao Paulo. Born in Mar del Plata in 1946, of Ukranian and Polish descend. He arrived to Brazil in the early seventies where he made his directorial feature debut with O Rei da Noite / King of the Night in 1975.
In 1981 he directed Pixote, which would become his breakout film and a classic in Brazilian cinema. The film follows a young boy (played by Fernando Ramos da Silva, who was killed by the Brazilian police at the age of 19) who is used as a child criminal in muggings and drug transport.
In 1985 he directed the film Kiss of the Spider Woman based on the novel by Manuel Puig and starring William Hurt and Raul Julia. The film had its world premiere at the official competition at Cannes, where it was awarded the Best Actor Award for Hurt. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards the following year for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor.
A year later Babenco directed Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in the film adaptation of the novel by William Kennedy Ironweed, about an alcoholic drifter spends Halloween in his home town of Albany, NY after returning there for the first time in decades.
He returned the official competition at Cannes with 1998 the Argentinean-Brazilian coproduction Corazón Iluminado / Foolish Heart and in 2003 with Carandiru in 2003. His last film was the 2015 production My Hindu Friend starring Willem Dafoe.
Babenco played the role of Cuban writer Virgilio Piñera in the 2000 film Before Night Falls by Julian Schnabel, and he also was a member of the Cannes Film Festival jury in 1989.