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How Angels Are Born

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Director  Murilo Salles
Music director  Victor Biglione
Country  Brazil
7.2/10 IMDb

Genre  Drama
Language  Portuguese
How Angels Are Born movie poster
Release date  August 16, 1996 (1996-08-16) (Festival de Gramado) 1996 (1996) (theatrical release)
Writer  Jorge Duran, Nelson Nadotti, Murilo Salles, Aguinaldo Silva
Screenplay  Murilo Salles, Jorge Duran, Aguinaldo Silva, Nelson Natotti
Cast  Priscila Assum, Silvio Guindane, Larry Pine, Ryan Massey, André Mattos
Similar movies  Movies about Brazil, Thrillers

How Angels Are Born (Portuguese: Como Nascem os Anjos) is a 1996 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Murilo Salles. It stars Priscila Assum and Silvio Guindane as two Rio de Janeiro favela's children who become involved in the kidnapping of an American man played by Larry Pine. How Angels Are Born has received awards at film festivals, and has been well received by critics.



The dullard Maguila accidentally kills the drug lord of Favela Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro. Pursued by other drug dealers, Maguila flees from the favela along with a 13-year-old tomboy nicknamed Branquinha who proclaims herself Maguila's wife. Amid the confusion, Branquinha takes her friend Japa into a car whose driver is obligated to help Maguila. Suddenly, Maguila gets out of the car with the children. They arrive in the house of the American William, and Maguila asks to use to pee in his bathroom, as according to Branquinha he was well-bred by his mother. Assuming it is a robbery, William's chauffeur shoots Maguila who in response kills him.

In the house, they discover Dona Conceição, William's maid, and Julie, William's daughter, both trying to call the police, but Japa prevents them to do it. Maguila and the children do not want to stay there, but Maguila wants a healing on his wound before going. Julie does a bandage in Maguila, but when they are about to leave the home, Japa notices a police car around. Japa recommends they to wait it goes away, and Branquinha and Japa tie the residents. While Maguila is exhausted due to his injury, Japa explores the house and Branquinha becomes fascinated by Julie, forcing her to do a topless. The police car is no more there, but Maguila decides to sleep. In this time, Marta, William's secretary, finds odd the fact that no one answers the bell, and calls the police.

Trapped inside the house, the children and William try to negotiate with the police to leave the place. They request the presence of an American Embassy's member, a children's rights non-governmental organization, and the press to assure their security. To show up themselves to the police, Branquinha asks Julie to wear other clothes to look like she is in safety. While the children are in the second floor to choose Julie's clothes and appear in a television channel, Conceição manages to escape. Japa kills her as she does not stop to try to release William. After it, Japa and Branquinha discuss on the better way to escape, and accidentally kill each other. The police then invades the house and rescues William and Julie.


  • Larry Pine as William
  • Priscila Assum as Branquinha
  • Silvio Guindane as Japa
  • Ryan Massey as Julie
  • André Mattos as Maguila
  • Maria Sílvia as Dona Conceição
  • Antonio Grassi as police chief
  • Graziela de Laurentis
  • Vicente Barcelos
  • Clemente Viscaíno
  • Maria Adélia as Marta
  • Ricardo Sampaio
  • Reception

    At the 24th Gramado Film Festival, How Angels Are Born won five awards: Best Director, Critic's Award, Special Jury Award (Assum and Guindane), Best Cinematography (tied with Quem Matou Pixote?), and Best Editing. Sílvia won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 29th Brasília Film Festival, while it was awarded the Best Film at the 23rd Festival de Cine Iberoamericano de Huelva.

    Luiz Zannin Oricchio, writing for O Estado de S. Paulo, called it "one of the best films of the so-called renaissance of Brazilian cinema". The author of the book Splendors of Latin Cinema, Hernandez Rodriguez, declared it is "far from the visual rush, the intensity, and the perfection of style, as well as the visual of pyrotechnics of Cidade de Deus", and said it is "definitely more interesting than Cidade dos Homens". The way children are represented in How Angels Are Born was commented by Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema's writers Laura E. Ruberto and Kristi M. Wilson, who compared it to Italian neorealism films. Variety's critic Ken Eisner praised Assum's performances, stating Branquinha was "played memorably" by her, as well as its cinematography, which helps "to offset plot claustrophobia". Eisner commented that "an apocalyptic ending provides a downbeat jolt to this generally smart and unpredictable drama."


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