“The streets of the world’s most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro’s City of God, are a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a young boy will grow up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with an artistic eye. In the face of impossible odds, his brave ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world and ultimately his way out” – Miramax Synopsis
The motion picture City of God, based off the 1997 book “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) by Paulo Lins, is an entertaining gangster story; set in “Cidade de Deus” (nickname for the Favelas of Brazil’s largest city Rio de Janeiro). This film explores the side effect of political and economic turmoil that existed in Brazil from the ’70s through the turn of the 20th century. Through this adventure of a movie is a story of love, dreams and of course, tragedy. It includes violence and action that could rival war films of the same period. The film is divided into 3 parts. Each part tells the story of different characters making this movie a three for one experience.
“At its heart, City of God is a gangster film, and a great one: epic in scope, powerful in conception, brilliant in execution.” – The Atlantic.
This story follows “Rocket”, an aspiring journalist and a young bystander to the events that unfold around him, as he narrates his childhood. In 3 parts, this protagonist explains how different people affected what was going on around him. The first of these three is the story of “the trio”; Shaggy (Cabeleira), Clipper (Alicate), and Goose (Marreco); and the early stage of the favelas. That leads into the story of “lil ze. The mood of the film begins to get darker as you see the rise in crime and violence. Lastly the story of knockout ned and essentially civil war.
“The film has been compared with Scorsese’s ‘GoodFellas,’ and it deserves the comparison.” – Roger & Ebert reviews.
Rocket narrates most of the film. His narration gives off a vibe reminiscence of a tour guide, rather than the reporter he hopes to become, to the events that unfold before his eyes. Although the film is in Portuguese, the narration is elegant and artistic. making the film easy to follow for Portuguese nonspeakers.
The cinematography in this movie stands out. As you move through the different time periods of the neighborhood , the style of imagery changes to match the era. The beginning of the films gives off a old fashion time period. As the story evolved into a more dark era of poverty and crime the grim, enclosed favela is captured beautifully. This continues throughout the films ending
“Meirelles is an extraordinarily stylish filmmaker, who employs dizzying camerawork, a raucous soundtrack, split screens, and a considerable dose of dark humor to keep City of God moving at a heady, intoxicating pace”. – The Atlantic.
The film is filled with information and moves at a high tempo. You will need to keep your eyes open the whole time and pay attention to as many details as you can to get the most out of the film. There is tons of action for the cameras to move too. This film will not fall short of captivating you.
It is personally one of my favorite films!