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Inspired by the classic novel by Brazilian cultural icon Jorge Amado, this is the story of a gang of homeless children lead by Pedro Bala. Set in Bahia, the film follows the adventures of Bala's gang of under aged outlaws as they steal, rape, find love, "capoeira" (a Brazilian form of martial arts) and African-Brazilian religion.
In the waterfront district of Bahia, Brazil, a gang of orphaned boys known as the Sandpit Generals lives in a deserted warehouse on the beach and begs or steals whatever they need. The streetwise boys, who are a mixture of races and ages, are approached one day by Father Jose Pedro, an earnest priest who has found their hideout. Although the boys, especially the violent Dry Turn, mistrust authority figures, their teenage leader, Bullet, declares that the priest can stay the night while they decide his fate. Father Jose Pedro eventually gains the trust of the boys, who, despite their lonely and dangerous existence, love the freedom of the streets. Some of them are fueled by hatred caused by past mistreatment, including No Legs, a handicapped youth who was beaten by policemen, while others long for a better life, such as Lollypop, who feels called to become a priest. After the Generals commit a daring robbery of a wealthy residence, they are declared a major menace by the police, who determine to capture them immediately. One afternoon, dock worker João de Adão tells Bullet about his dead father, a strike leader. Although Bullet is pleased that his father struggled for an important cause, he dismisses João de Adão's concerns for his safety, as well as his offer of a job on the docks, because of his loyalty to the other boys. One night, Father Jose Pedro tries to treat the boys to a ride on a carousel, but Dry Turn and No Legs are already working at the amusement park ride and after closing, give the others free rides and a brief, joy-filled respite from their hard lives. Soon after, Professor and Big João, two of the older Generals, find an orphaned, teenage girl feeding her young brother the dregs of discarded soda bottles. Impressed by the girl's spirit and beauty, Professor and Big João take her and her brother to the warehouse, despite the rule that no women are allowed into the Generals' lair. Dry Turn menaces the girl, Dora, but Bullet decides that she can stay and, to enforce his ruling, engages in a bloody fight with Dry Turn. Despite the boys' initial wariness of Dora, she charms them by cleaning and cooking, and many of the boys, starved for affection, come to regard Dora as a "little mother" and sister, except for Bullet, who is attracted to her. One day, Bullet engages No Legs in a scam they have performed many times, in which the lame boy appeals to wealthy matrons who take him in. No Legs then "cases" their homes and helps the gang to rob them. Bullet instructs No Legs that the new target is a woman whose son Augusto died a year earlier, and that he should therefore give his name as Augusto to gain her sympathy. No Legs finagles entrance to the mansion and the soft-hearted resident, Doña Ester, is fooled by his phony tears. Soon, however, No Legs is won over by the lady's generosity and kindness, and stalls in providing the gang with information, although Bullet constantly badgers him. Torn between his desire for a real home and his loyalty to his friends, No Legs breaks down in tears and is comforted by Doña Ester, who promises that she is now his mother. Although No Legs replies that he will never forget her, he betrays the matron by sneaking in the Generals to loot the house. As they are leaving, Doña Ester drives up and sees No Legs, who cries out in anguish that his name is not Augusto. That night, Bullet attempts to console No Legs by saying that Doña Ester will take him back, but the crying child turns away. Later, Bullet and Dora spend the day watching Professor draw and speculate what it would be like if he could gain entrance to an art school. Soon after, the Generals discover that Ezequiel, a rival gang leader, has offered to inform on them to the police. Determined to stop him, the Generals prepare for battle and during the ensuing attack, Bullet stabs Ezequiel to death in self-defense. As the days pass, Bullet and Dora spend more time together and, with her brother, become a family. The police have learned about Dora, however, and assume that she is a weak point they can exploit. Wanted posters for Bullet appear everywhere, and when Bullet and Dora ask Father Jose Pedro to marry them, he upbraids Bullet for being careless by going out in public. The priest pleads with the couple to wait, as they are too young to marry, and when he offers to smuggle Bullet out of the area, the angry youth retorts that he cannot leave the other Generals. Soon after, young gang member Almiro is stricken with smallpox. Some of the boys want to throw him out to prevent contagion, but Dora levels a pistol at them and insists that they wait for Bullet's instructions. Upon Bullet's return, Father Jose Pedro asks him to send Almiro to the hospital, but Bullet refuses, as few poor people ever return alive. Bullet then instructs Almiro to return to his grandfather, where he will be safe until the priest can bring a doctor who will "keep his mouth shut," as doctors are required to report cases of smallpox so that the victims can be hospitalized. Although he is reluctant, Father Jose Pedro agrees, then recalls a recent meeting with the Chancellor of the parish: The Chancellor chides Father Jose Pedro for his dealings with the Generals, and when the priest insists that Jesus would want him to care for the hungry, alienated children rather than isolate himself in a church filled with gold and rich food, the Chancellor informs him that he will be excommunicated for his rebellion. In order to obtain medicine for Almiro, the Generals ransack a ship, but during the robbery, Big João falls to his death from a crane. When the boys conduct a traditional voodoo funeral for their comrade, the police raid the ceremony and capture Bullet and Dora. While Dora is taken to an orphanage, Bullet is sent to the reformatory, where the brutal commissioner beats him and orders him thrown into the "hole," a tiny cell dug into the ground. With no water or food, exposed to the elements and unable to lie down, Bullet suffers terribly. Although he is freed from the hole eventually, Bullet refuses to reveal the gang's hiding place and is sent to the fields to work. After the gang sneaks him some rope and a knife, he escapes, but when he and the other boys free Dora, they find that she has fallen ill from smallpox. Bullet and Dora spend one last night together on the beach, consummating their relationship, and the next morning, Dora dies. The anguished Bullet leads the funeral procession and, according to custom, slips Dora's body into the sea. Soon after, Bullet, following in his father's footsteps, leads the boys in a demonstration at the governor's palace.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||R||Premiere Info:||World premiere at Moscow International Film Festival: 23 Jul 1971|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color||Distributions Co:||American International Pictures|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Hall Bartlett Productions, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||99 or 102||Country:||United States|
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