By Brett Mullins
Original Title: Cidade de Deus
Directed by Frenando Meirelles and Kátia Lund; Screenplay by Bráulio Mantovani.
City of God depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro from its humble youth of the 1960s to the widespread warring in the ‘80s.
Cidade de Deus is a slum hosting Brazil’s most impoverished citizens. The lack of employment and need for funds to survive force many of the youth into a life of crime. In the beginning, several teenagers grouped together committing petty theft against the rich and the government, which generally benefited the poor citizens. As the youth grew into adults, so did the gravity of their crimes as they ventured into the drug trade. Though it’s expected from living such a turbulent life, the characters appear not to live so long. As the leaders succumb to their inevitable fate, the neighborhood spirals out of control ending with armed children gallivanting throughout the streets.
As with other crime dramas, such as The Godfather and Gomorrah, this film has quite a complex set of character interactions and developments. The characters’ tales interweave to create a complex poverty stricken masterpiece.
The audience meets the film’s protagonist, Rocket, as a shy child who strays away from the violent youth in his neighborhood. As he ages, he’s consistently down on his luck, catching few lucky breaks. Rocket is easy to relate with because, though he appears afraid of the criminal world, he is forced to associate with it at various times, as most of us are, while in pursuit of a career as a photographer.
City of God surpasses many other films through its realism. The film makes the audience fall in love with characters, even the antagonists, then kills them off in a dramatic fashion. It also does well at humanizing criminals, which appears not to be a trait of today’s cinema.
This film earns director Frenando Meirelles his stripes as a ground breaking director, especially since his cast was composed of those who are from Cidade de Deus.
City of God will exceed expectations and challenge the top films of the crime drama genre.