Saturday, June 18, 2011

City of God

Cidade de Deus; Crime drama, Brazil, 2002; D: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund, S: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Alice Braga

The "City of God", a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in the 60s. Rocket grows up together with boys Li'l Ze and Benny, who are predestined to crime already from the early age. Li'l Ze kills Rocket's brother and becomes a wealthy drug tycoon by the age of 18. Rocket loves Angelica, but she has a relationship with Benny who dies in a shoot-out. When Li'l Ze rapes a girl, her lover Ned declares war on him and joins the rival gang. Rocket becomes a reporter and makes photos of the gang wars where Li'l Ze is killed.

Even before "The City of God" was surprisingly nominated for 4 Oscars (including best director and screenplay), it already gained hype at the Cannes film festival where numerous critics were already impressed by the opening sequence where the camera is in "fast forward" style flying about the grown up Rocket until a cut brings it to him as a child. There were also detractors from the film, who attacked it for violent scenes, but to its credit, they are not presented in a sensationalistic or 'cool' way, but as ugly, dirty and unsettling, since the story is based on true events. Actually, almost every violent scene is disgusting and the viewers feel contempt towards the perpetrators, like when Li'l Ze, at the age of 10, shoots at innocent people and laugh like an idiot or towards a criminal who is robbing naked men in a brothel. Director Fernardo Meirelles decided to show injustice and draw attention towards the neglected slums of Rio de Janeiro by simply publicly showing all its details that are otherwise not shown in the West. "The City of God" is a strong and energetic film, yet it is just Brazil's version of "Goodfellas", done rather too fast, cold and without a soul.


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