by Laurent Kelly

City of God (2002) – Director: Fernando Meirelles Screenplay: Braulio Mantovani Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergeale, Leandro Firmino OSCAR COUNT (0) – Meirelles and Braulio were nominated in the director and adapted screenplay categories.

“A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.”

Praise just grew and grew for City of God throughout 2002 and by the end of the year it had been hailed as the Brazilian Goodfellas. Certainly in regards to style the comparisons were quite apt. Much like Goodfellas took the volume of the mafia and turned it up to 11, City of God used similar techniques to portray the fast moving and harsh world of the Brazilian slums. A comparison could also be made in regards to the film’s frantic storylines and striking, larger than life characters. Whereas Scorsese took us into the heart of the mob through the eyes of Henry Hill (and then very cleverly switched back and forth to reflect his wife’s POV) Meirelles guides his journey of the cutthroat ganglands of Brazil through the kind hearted and good natured lead character Rocket and the longer we spend with him in this environment the more desperate we are for him to fuel his dreams of becoming a photographer and leave this harsh world behind.

Although the film is a little too gun-ho and over-stylised in places, for the most part we are reminded of the sour consequences of slumlife in which small children find their way into gangs and innocent people die. The film’s ending in which a group of youngsters are inspired by the bloodshed and make plans to take over the land is an excellent comment about the nature of violence and how people fail to learn from history. All the kids know is death and destruction and have no idea about how to live any other way.

The film’s excellently structured mixture of tense, set-pieces and harrowing truths surrounding the gang culture paint a brilliant portrait of a world most comfortably viewed from a distance. Luckily for protagnist Rocket the camera lens becomes the key to making this distance certain. Most of all however City of God is so impressive because in the midst of all the chaos and high drama it prevails as a poignant character study that shows people for who they truly are.

– All of the actors were recruited from various slums in and around the Rio de Janiero area.


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