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City of God

A movie directed by Fernando Meirelles

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Moving Brutality.

  • Sep 24, 2006
Life is hard and difficult. Unfortunately, for many people in the world life is also unbearably brutal. Living in the United States we often forget that, even if we grew up in impoverished small towns or in the slums of the inner city. CITY OF GOD is a film that examines the brutality of humanity in a housing project that is part of Rio de Janeiro.

CITY OF GOD is the name of a housing project built in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s. From watching the movie, it seemed to me that CITY OF GOD is like a really bad ghetto and slum area of the city that virtually operates under its own rules. The area became a hotbed of violence starting in the 1970s. To this day it is still known as being one of the most dangerous places in the world to live in. We are given a glimpse into what life is like in this place through the narration of the film's central character, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues). Rocket is a photographer who grew up in CITY OF GOD. Through the movie he tells a story of what caused the violence in CITY OF GOD, how it came to be, and how for a brief time it was brought under control by the government.

Rocket has a close-knit body of friends while growing up, but he doesn't have the stomach to commit the crimes and violence that his friends do. He breaks away, tries to study, and works at "real" jobs where he is underpaid and disrespected. Meanwhile, his friends grow up to take control of the projects drug trade. They become rich and powerful, but also hated. Meanwhile, Rocket discovers that he has a knack for taking pictures and is saved through the art he creates (reminding me of a quote from Pablo Neruda, "Art, like food, should feed the world.")

CITY OF GOD is an extremely well-done film. The acting is so real and honest. Part of that is probably attributable the director for hiring mostly actors who grew up in the slums, including Alexandre Rodrigues who grew up in the City of God itself. This realism carries over into the settings, scenery, and locations, too. Much of the movie was filmed in one of the slums of Rio (but not the City of God) and things were so dangerous that the director almost stopped the filming of the movie. The final product is an incredible brutal and realistic portrayal of the harsh life or existence the people living there chose or are forced to endure everyday.

The film is full of violence, language, and sexuality that some people will find offensive. It's also a very sad movie in many ways because the people involved in the aftermath of it all, refuse to break the cycle of violence and destruction that surrounds them. Existing is easy, but living is much more difficult. Existing might be more dangerous, but it's much easier to do. As brutal and depressing that CITY OF GOD is, it does offer a glimmer of hope through the eyes of Rocket, a man from the CITY OF GOD who was able to rise above it and create a better life for himself through art.

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February 05, 2011
nice review!
February 08, 2011
More City of God (2002 Movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . January 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
phenomenal movie!! moving and beautiful to look at.
review by . March 19, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Everything.     Cons: Nothing. (some may want to beware of extreme violence)     The Bottom Line: See it.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Yeah, I can’t even come up with a title to do this movie justice. I just absolutely loved it. This is movie #6 of my film class, coming from the favelas (poverty-stricken areas, basically) of Brazil. I don’t even have any goofy quips to start …
review by . January 17, 2006
City of god is a film that you have to see to know how good you have it. These kid's are faced with everything from murder to drugs and it doesn't stop there. Not only do they have to live in an environment filled with crime some of them take part in it before they even hit age 10 and what's crazy is that this is based on a true story. This is a very rugged film as you see children that must do this to survive and the rise and fall of one child that did this for the rush and to satisfy a hunger …
review by . November 25, 2005
I had rented this out from the library and after I've finished viewing it you are left wondering about the irony of the title. It is not long in the movie where you realize that the City of God is a place totally forgotten by everybody. Still, that is the name that the government of Brazil gave to the housing developments outside Rio, constructed in the early `60s to hold thousands of people. Those slums, known as "the favelas", eventually led to the isolation of poor people from the city center, …
review by . March 30, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
This film attacks with images which resemble predatory birds flying at us at supersonic speed, trying to claw out our eyes with their talons. Paradoxically, the film also numbs us to the relentless carnage it so graphically portrays. Directed by Fernando Meirelles with invaluable assistance from Katia Lund and set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro (a squalid and violent area known as "City of God"), the film's narrator is Buscape ("Rocket"), an amateur photographer. Listing other actors and the names …
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About this movie


Like cinematic dynamite,City of God lights a fuse under its squalid Brazilian ghetto, and we're a captive audience to its violent explosion. The titularfavelais home to a seething army of impoverished children who grow, over the film's ambitious 20-year timeframe, into cutthroat killers, drug lords, and feral survivors. In the vortex of this maelstrom is L'il Z (Leandro Firmino da Hora--like most of the cast, a nonprofessional actor), self-appointed king of the dealers, determined to eliminate all competition at the expense of his corrupted soul. With enough visual vitality and provocative substance to spark heated debate (and box-office gold) in Brazil, codirectors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund tackle their subject head on, creating a portrait of youthful anarchy so appalling--and so authentically immediate--that City of God prompted reforms in socioeconomic policy. It's a bracing feat of stylistic audacity, borrowing from a dozen other films to form its own unique identity. You'll flinch, but you can't look away. -- Jeff Shannon
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Director: Fernando Meirelles
Genre: Drama, Foreign
Release Date: January 17, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: June 8, 2004
Runtime: 2hrs 11min
Studio: Miramax Films
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