Celebrating Great Films

Friday, July 02, 2010

City of God

#18 at time of writing.

This is a stylish and impactful rollercoaster of a film that devastatingly evokes the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that can trap the children of Brazil's Cidade de Deus, and favelas like it, in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.

The characters are all children, almost all of whom carry guns, and most of whom will be killed before the age of 20. The film follows one child in particular, Buscapé (translated as Rocket), who goes to great lengths to try not to get caught up in the criminal underworld, but without success.

The story, acting, directing, cinematography, editing - everything - is first class, but the thing that makes this film unbeatably compelling is that it is based on truth. Not in the Hollywood "inspired by true events" way, but for real. Some shots in the movie are recreations of genuine photos from the drug war the film dramatises. All of the child actors (with one exception) were amateurs recruited from the favelas themselves. And, of course, the story and the characters are based on Paulo Lins' eponymous account of living in the City of God during the 60s, 70s and 80s.

According to director Fernando Mereilles, much of the script is improvised. For example, when we hear Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) talking to Marina (Graziela Moretto) about how he had never taken a hot bath, that was not scripted. Rodrigues was telling Moretto, during a pause in the filming, about his life in the slums.

The DVD also contains a horrifying and fascinating documentary about the modern-day City of God. Becoming a hoodlum in Cidade de Deus isn't just a fringe career option for disenchanted rebels and social outcasts - it's the main industry.


  1. I have never even heard of this movie. I will have to put it on my list!

  2. Anonymous9:13 pm

    What a bellend. You obviously don't like movies that much or follow greatest lists because this truly is a classy film. One of the best modern day foreign films around.