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Héctor Babenco dead: Kiss of the Spider Woman director dies at 70

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Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Héctor Babenco, the Argentine-Brazilian filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated Kiss of the Spider Woman, died Wednesday night at the age of 70. 

Denise Winther of Babenco’s HB Films told the Associated Press he suffered a heart attack at Sao Paulo’s Sirio-Libanes Hospital. He is survived by his wife Barbara, and daughter Janka.

Babenco became the first Latin American filmmaker to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Director, which stemmed from 1985’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. Starring William Hurt and Raul Julia, the film told the story of two cell mates in a South American prison. To escape his harsh reality, one fabricates films starring the titular Spider Woman (played by Sonia Braga).

The film earned a total of four nominations, including Best Picture, and won for Hurt’s leading performance. 

Babenco’s other notable works include his 1981 breakthrough Pixote, Ironweed with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, At Play in the Fields of the Lord with John Lithgow and Kathy Bates, and his most recent effort My Hindu Friend with Willem Dafoe.

“I don’t really believe that I am a political movie director,” he said in a 2007 interview with Newsweek. “My strongest impulse has always been to flee from definitions, flags, and ideologies.”