Oscar Directors: Babenco, Hector–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography (Strangers in Paradise, Foreigners in Hollywood)

Research in Progress: Oct 24, 2021

Hector Babenco Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class:

Nationality: Argentinean; Jewish; worked in Brazil



First Film: 1975; age 29

First Oscar Nomination: Kiss of Spider Woman, 1985; age 39

Gap between First Film and First Nom: 10 years

Other Nominations: N0

Genre (specialties):

Breakthrough: Pixote, 1980; age 34


Last Film: My Hindu Friend, 2016; 70


Career Output: Small (about 12, 3 in US)

Career Span: 1973-2016  (42 years)

Marriage: two; one actress



Death: 2016; age 70 (had a film that year)


Héctor Eduardo Babenco (February 7, 1946 – July 13, 2016), the Argentine-Brazilian film director, screenwriter, producer and actor, worked in worked in Brazil, Argentina, and the US.

He was one of the first Brazilian filmmakers to gain international critical acclaim, through his films which often dealt with social outcasts on the fringes of society.

His best-known works include Pixote (1980), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Ironweed (1987), At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1990) and Carandiru (2003).

Babenco’s films brought him accolades. He was nominated three times for the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Fest, and was nominated for Best Director Oscar for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Babenco was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Mar del Plata. His mother, Janka Haberberg, was a Polish Jewish immigrant, and his father, Jaime Babenco, was an Argentine gaucho of Ukrainian Jewish origin.

Babenco lived in Europe from 1964 to 1968.

In 1969, he decided to stay in São Paulo, Brazil, permanently.

His first solo feature film as a director was O Rei da Noite (King of the Night) (1975), starring Paulo José and Marília Pêra.

Babenco had an international success with Pixote – A lei do mais fraco (1981), which is about Brazil’s abandoned children.  The film featured impressive work of young actor Fernando Ramos da Silva, 10 years old, who was discovered in the suburbs of São Paulo. The film received numerous prizes.

For Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Babenco was nominated for the Best Director Oscar, the first Latin American to be nominated in this category.

He directed major American actors, including William Hurt, John Lithgow, Raul Julia, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Tom Berenger, Daryl Hannah, Aidan Quinn and Kathy Bates.

In 2012 Babenco was part of the jury in the 34th Moscow Film Fest.

His last film was My Hindu Friend (2016), which stars Willem Dafoe. It recounts the story of a film director close to death.

In 2010, Barbenco married actress Bárbara Paz. He was previously married to Xuxa Lopes and Raquel Arnaud. He was the father of two daughters, Janka Babenco and Myra Arnaud Babenco, from his previous marriages, and also had two grandchildren.

In 1994, Babenco fell ill and had to undergo a bone marrow transplant to treat lymphatic cancer.

On July 12, 2016, Barbenco was admitted to Hospital Sírio-Libanês to treat sinusitis. The following night, he suffered a cardiac arrest, and passed away shortly thereafter.