In the slums of Rio, a young boy is able to avoid a life of murder
and drug dealing by developing a passion for photography.
City of God (2002)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Written by Bráulio Mantovani
Starring Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Alice Braga, Seu Jorge, Matheus Nachtergaele,
Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen, Darlan Cunha, Rubens Sabino
Based on the novel by Paulo Lins
Oscar Nominations - Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay,
Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
City of God is an eye-opening film that shines a light on the seemingly endless criminal element that dominates the slums of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The story is told through the eyes of one young man, an aspiring photographer named Rocket (Rodrigues) who wants no part in the life of crime that has consumed everyone he's ever cared about. But slowly but surely, Rocket gets pulled into the gang war due to sheer circumstance. While he is our eyes for the most part, the film takes you through roughly two decades of crime in the Cidade de Deus, or in English, the City of God.
Rocket begins his story as a child, where his brother was part of a local gang who robbed a hotel and were wanted for murder. The culprit was psychotic child Lil Dice (Silva), who would grow up to be psychotic crime boss Lil Ze (Firmino), one of the most unstable gangster characters in film history. Every scene Lil Ze is in is unpredictable and chaotic, and it makes for an engaging film. Growing up, Rocket finds himself trapped in a neighborhood now run by Lil Ze and his gangster rival Carrot (Nachtergaele). When Lil Ze creates his own worst enemy in Knockout Ned (Jorge), a gang war erupts, and Rocket tries his best to simply stay alive. The film is brilliantly told through some impressive editing and cinematography, and the story is unlike any American crime drama I've seen.
In the world of City of God, crime is a way of life that's almost encouraged. It's known that working honestly won't get you anywhere in life, leaving drug dealing as the only option for a lot of people. It becomes who they are, and they can't escape it no matter what. Several characters try to escape the life in this film, only to realize that the choice doesn't belong to them and it never has. Thanks to Parasite, I've had my interest in foreign film renewed, and I urge anybody who's against subtitles to wake the fuck up. There's an entire planet's worth of stories that you're shutting yourself off from. Give some of them a chance, starting with City of God.