Brazilian Oscar-nominated film director Hector Babenco dies at 70

Cnaan Liphshiz

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — One of Brazil’s most influential film makers, Hector Babenco, died in Sao Paulo at age 70.

An employee of his film company told The Associated Press that he had a heart attack.

Babenco, who died Wednesday, was nominated in 1985 for an Oscar for his film “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Born in Buenos Aires to a Polish Jewish mother and Argentine father of Ukrainian Jewish origin, Babenco came to Brazil in 1969 and adopted the country as his own.
He once described his childhood self as “a chubby Jew in a Nazi country,” reported the Brazilian Israelite Confederation in a homage posted on Facebook Thursday. Argentina gained a notorious reputation for harboring exiled Nazi officials after World War II.
Babenco gained fame in 1980 with the movie “Pixote,” about abandoned children who lived in the streets of Brazil. The movie was nominated for the best foreign picture in the Golden Globes and won the same category in the New York Film Critics Circle. Younger generations also know him for the 2003 movie “Carandiru,” about Brazil’s most notorious prison.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” also was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture and William Hurt won the Best Actor Oscar playing a cross-dressing gay man who comforts a leftist revolutionary in a Brazilian prison. Babenco also directed “Ironweed” with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who were nominated for best actor and actress Oscars for the adaptation of the William Kennedy novel. His last film was “My Hindu Friend” starring Willem Dafoe. It tells the story of a film director nearing death.

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