Sunday, December 17, 2006


City of God

'City of God' posterIt's not a new movie, but I've just recently seen the Brazilian film City of God (“Cidade de Deus”, from 2002).

It's a very disturbing movie about a slum in Rio de Janeiro, and about the thugs who grow up there. The film begins with a scene that we'll see again later, as the narrator, a young man nicknamed “Rocket” (everyone's called by a nickname here) takes us back to his childhood, and tells us about the people and events that brought him and his neighbours to where they are now. We see a story of the older brothers, the previous generation of thugs, and we see the transition to Rocket's generation. We see how a society of violence makes people degenerate into their own cycle of violence.

The depiction feels real. I don't know, of course, what the reality is, but it feels real. And that's what makes it so disturbing: understanding that it is like that for the people who live there, seeing kids — teens and earlier — who take killing so casually, seeing the next batch of even younger kids trained to do the same. There's a scene in which “Li'l Zé”, who's become the boss thug, shoots someone who's worked at his side, just because he's being annoying.

This movie really made me feel what it must be like to live in an environment like that, and to feel the need those young men have to either own it, or get out, without being sure how to do either.

“City of God” won the 2003 Cinema Brazil Grand Prize in six categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated in nine others, including all the acting categories. It was nominated for Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing in the 2004 Academy Awards, and for the Best Foreign-Language Film in the 2003 Golden Globes. And there are lots more in its list of awards.

It's a very powerful, very compelling, very disturbing movie. And it will make you think twice about what street you might turn down if you're driving in Rio.

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