101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, disturbing and brilliant. I loved it!
Exploding on the screen with color, violence and a great story, this Brazilian film captures the essence of life in the City of God, a slum of Rio de Janeiro. Based on a true story of a young man who somehow escaped the preordained fate of his companions by becoming a photographer, the director, Fernando Meirelles, uses every modern technique to achieve his razor-sharp...
Published on March 2, 2003 by Linda Linguvic
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sad Life for Children In Some Countries
Street kids in other countries can have a very hard life. This movie makes that point. Makes you want to thank your "lucky stars" that you live in the USA.
Published 12 months ago by Russ
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101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, disturbing and brilliant. I loved it!,
Exploding on the screen with color, violence and a great story, this Brazilian film captures the essence of life in the City of God, a slum of Rio de Janeiro. Based on a true story of a young man who somehow escaped the preordained fate of his companions by becoming a photographer, the director, Fernando Meirelles, uses every modern technique to achieve his razor-sharp scenes of drugs, murders and non-stop violence that spins out of control and just keeps going.
The frantic energy of the film and fascinating story kept me at the edge of my seat, as a voice-over narration that moved backwards and forward in time, held the story together. All of a sudden, a detail would be revealed that explained something that happened in the past, and, like an electric shock, my grasp of the story would move to even deeper levels. There was little time to ponder it all though, because I was so caught up in what was happening on the screen that it was only later that I could appreciate the brilliance.
We watch several young boys grow into teenagers, tentatively experiencing the world of girls and drugs and guns and murders and crime. There's upbeat samba music throughout, and brilliant colors and blood. There's horrific violence, and also fine moments of humor and humanity. All together it just picked me up and plunked me down right into the middle of this world which made me hold my breath and live on the edge with the more than 200 non-professional actors who were recruited for this film. The sense of place is amazing. And the acting was more than just acting. It was real. And it was also one of the most creative films I've ever seen. Bravo to the filmmakers! I give "City of God" my highest recommendation.
116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking to survive in a brutal environment...,
This review is from: City of God (DVD)
"City of God" ("Cidade de Deus") is the story of a boy, but also the story of a "favela" (Portuguese word with similar meaning to slum or shantytown) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. That shantytown is called "Cidade de Deus". Throughout this extraordinary movie both the boy and the favela grow, albeit obviously in very different ways :)
The boy is Rocket (Buscapé in Portuguese, played by Alexandre Rodrigues), who is born in Cidade de Deus and grows up before our eyes living in it. He is quiet and easygoing, just a non-violent person seeking a way to survive in a brutal environment. Rocket ends up doing exactly that through his passion, photography, that ends up making him an intermediary between the local gangs and the press. He is also the narrator of this movie, the voice that accompanies us throughout many of the stories that "City of God" has to offer...
The other main character of "City of God" is the "city" itself, that starts merely as a couple of houses, but that grows immensely as years go by. The activities in which its inhabitants are involved also change, from petty robbery to organized crime that involves drug dealing and arms trafficking. We see Li'l Zé (Zé Pequeno in Portuguese, played by Leandro Frimino), one of the boys that used to play soccer with Rocket, grow up to become a murderer and a drug lord, someone that makes his own laws. The same happened with others, but Li'l Zé probably represents to most dangerous kind of sociopath that the favela can produce. Rocket and Li'l Zé, same circumstances, different persons, different choices. Who says that where you lives determinates how you are and what you do?. This is an excellent example that that is not always the case...
Directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund somehow managed to convey in their movie the full strenght of the novel (written by Paulo Lins) on which "City of God" is based. This film is full of colour and energy, carrying the spectator at a dizzying pace through the twenty years it covers, never giving him time to get bored. It is wortwhile to point out that most of the "actors" didn't have any real experience as such, they just happened to live in different slums of Rio de Janeiro (including Cidade de Deus) at the time when the film was being made. I think that is something that shows in the realism of the results...
On the whole, I can say that I loved "City of God", notwithstanding the fact that it is undeniably bloody and has some very violent scenes. In my opinion, they are not gratuitous, because they help the directors to capture what may really happen in a Brazilian shantytown, and show it to us. All in all, this movie is nothing short of an experience worth having and sharing. If you watch "City of God" and love it as much as I do, do your part and recommend it to others :)
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing,
More than a regular movie, "Cidade de Deus" is an experiment in filmmaking. With only one or two exceptions, all the actors were residents of the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of the same name of the movie. They were all exhaustingly auditioned and trained to participate on the movie with the best and greatest authenticity they could manage. That's what make "Cidade de Deus" so unique. It's an authentic movie, with an authentic story and authentic characters.
The story is about the people of "Cidade de Deus", a poor neighborhood built far from the ellegant and glamourous center of Rio de Janeiro of the sixties, built for and by poor families who were later to live there. Of course, during the next decades, The city of Rio de Janeiro englobed Cidade de Deus, and suddenly the poor families were not so far away from the rich zones of the town. Through the years, we follow the life story of some local kids, from utter poverty to immense richness from the traffic of narcotics. We also follow their own destruction in the form of war between rival traffic gangs.
Fernando Meirelles was able to transmit, in fast paced rhythms and camera movements, the struggle for power and freedom in the poor suburb. He was also able to mantain the local people-turned-actors authenticity and liberty of acting. There are some strong scenes that leave the spectator mesmerized by their violence and reality.
I just hope that the guy/team responsible for the subtitles in english, or in any other language, was someone with an enormous knowledge of portuguese, because the dialogue and constant use of slang (yours truly, a native brazilian, had some hard time in understanding the meaning of some words used in the dialogues) are, alone, amazing aspects of the movie.
One of the best enterteinment I ever had.
82 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars RAW, COLORFUL STREETS OF RIO IN A CARNIVAL OF FILM-MAKING,
So this is what Brazilian ghettos look like. Stylistically a little like "Traffic" (liberal reliance on sepia tones or drugs) or "Salaam Bombay" (similar theme couched in the streets of Bombay), this movie is a bloody but captivating look at real life in modern day Rio.
Gangsterism is no more a fringe career option amidst the socio-economic strife of the city, but a prime-time industry that takes guts and guile to keep away from. Character after character in the movie fall a prey to this vicious panoply of drugs, poverty and gore. An underlying personal thread is the story of how our protagonist, Rocket, becomes a news photographer and escapes from the slum. Plus, a minor subplot about how he loses his virginity.
Technically, the movie is nothing short of stunning. Several virtuoso scenes are strewn together with clever direction in which the dizzying pace and the sheer number of characters don't detract from a coherent, well told story. We are led in and around scenes, and frequently led back to explain why what occured occured. Wannabe-editors will marvel at how cunningly this effect is achieved. The cinematography, needless to mention, is geewhiz, the screen literally pops with color.
I could wax eloquent about more reasons but the proof is in the pudding. City of God bursts at the seams with energy, vivid color and a poignant story of a man's escape from the social drivel he is born into. If you can get your hands on this movie, do so pronto, you won't regret it.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A descent into the living hell of Rio's "Cidade de Deus",
This review is from: City of God (DVD)
"Cidade de Deus" ("City of God") is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, much of it perpetrated by and directed against children, but the onslaught is justified because this is what life is like in the slums of Rio De Janeiro. There are over 600 slum neighborhoods in the city housing 1.2 million of Rio's 5.8 million inhabitants. Cidade de Deus was apparently a misguided attempt at solving the problem of having so many poor in a city that thrives on tourist dollars: build a project area for the poor to keep them away from the city center. However, the result is more like John Carpenter's dystopian nightmare "Escape from New York," except that this is the real world and real life hell hole.
Based on the novel by Paulo Lins and directed by Fernando Merirelles, "Cidade de Deus" parallels the life of its narrator, Buscapé (Rocket), with the evolution of the gangs that roam through the slum and the rise of the sociopathic gang leader Li'l Zé (Leanadro Frimino da Hora), who was the king of the drug lords in Cidade de Deus during the 1970s. It takes a while to discover that the story is as much about Li'l Zé as it is about Buscapé and that these are two different paths being followed by kids born into essentially the same circumstances.
You would think that Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) would end up being a criminal because his brother is one (although not a very good one), but even though he is young Buscapé cannot help but see the hopelessness of that sort of life. But similar forces turn Li'l Zé un a ruthless killer who consolidates his power and actually makes the slum safer because he has taken over almost all of the rival gangs. The police show up from time to time but as the story progresses we get to the point where they are out gunned by gangs. Of course the point comes where Li'l Zé has to move on the last of the gang lords who opposed him, Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) and Knockout Ned (Deu Jorge).
The character of Buscapé is in an interesting position, which is established literally in the opening sequence of the film, before we go back to the beginning to find out why chasing a chicken could get you killed in a crossfire. Buscapé is close enough to the world of Li'l Zé to be able to witness the rise and fall of the gang leader but is not swept up in the cycle of violence. Ultimately his position as a witness is legitimated, both in Cidade de Deus and Rio de Janeiro, by the gift of a stolen camera.
As much as the film entwines the narratives of the power plays of a drug lord with the efforts of a young man to get out of hell alive, "Cidade de Deus" is ultimately an indictment of a city that literally turned its back on its poor and left them to create a world of violence. The city powers are content because the gangs stay in the slum, robbing the poor because as long as they leave the middle class, the rich, and the tourists alone, they are happy with the bargain. Meanwhile generations of children are growing up looking forward to the day they can get their first gun and go kill somebody they do not like. This film could not possibly have a more horrific ending in terms of representing the chilling cycle of violence that will perpetuate itself into infinity.
By a random twist of fate I happened to watch "City of God" the same week that I got around to finally seeing "Amores Perros," so I am particularly stuck by these two films, one in Portugese from Brazil and the other in Spanish from Mexico, that both use violence to such different ends from what we have been getting from Hollywood. This is not the stylized cartoon violence of "Kill Bill" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" or the computer generated carnage of "The Return of the King" and "Troy," but something more visceral and much more powerful. Merirelles brings an artistic flair to the depictions of violence without lessening the impact or the importance of the lesson. I like how the Havana Film Festival cited Meirelles in awarding him their FIPRESCI Prize cited him: "For approaching the explosive theme of social exclusion, using an ambitious, complex and involving style of narration, without moralizing or condoning violence." Hopefully this film will have more of an impact than convincing thousands of tourists not to ever visit Rio.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Stellar Film from South America,
This film is another proof that confirms my view that some of the most vital films are made in South America right now. While American cinema caters to mindless escapism and self-help drama, films like "Y Tu Mama Tambien", "Amores Perros", and this magnificent film portray what's important and consequential about life.
"City of God" tracks the lives of hoodlums in the ghettos near Rio de Janeiro for three decades. Rocket is the main narrator, a boy who tries to overcome his circumstances to become a photographer. The character work is excellent, and gangsters like Li'l Ze, Knockout Ned, and others come to vivid life. The world depicted in this film is a bleak one, and although violent, much of the violence seems a necessary commentary on what makes the people living in it act in such a way.
The camera work, and the narrative technique, one that loops backward and forward, is dazzling. This is surely one of the most aesthetically and visually strident films in recent years.
All in all, "City of God" deserves to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year. It's nothing short of brilliant.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City Of God--One of the Best Films in the Past 10 Years,
One of the best films I've ever seen. This gritty, depressing, hardboiled crime saga follows the story of a young photographer and his experience in the ghetto's of Rio de Janeiro. I feel fortunate I was able to see this film in the theater, this is the type of film that will influence directors years from now. The violence is in your face and brutal, and the fact that most of the characters are under the age of 16 makes some of the scene's hard to digest. But none of the violence is gratuitous or unnecessary. Also the film is perfectly stylized in the Disco/Funk era of the 70's. The sound track is all Brazilian Funk and provides a great balance to the violence and crazy attitudes of all the gangsters. The story depicts the rise and fall of a 16 year old cocain king pin and his 12 year old cronies, all captured in photographs by the main character, who tries his hardest to rise out of the ghetto by means other than drugs or violence. What is even more incredable about this movie is that it is a true story, and most of the actors are real kids from the ghetto's of Rio. But the movie hardly relies on the fact that it's a true story to become ingagining, it really wasn't until the film ended that I realized that most of the events in the movie actually happened. The film is so well stylized you will feel as though you are watching an documentry of these events. A film you will not soon forget.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CITY OF TRUTH,
This film is the truth!! The experience of growing up in a violent ghetto has never been closer to the truth than this. I grew up in the heart of the crack epidemic in Washington Heights, NYC, the birthplace of crack cocaine, so take my word for it. Everything from it's beautiful cinematography to it's skillful quick tempo storytelling, taking you from one character to the next without missing a beat is perfect!! This film is on my Top 5 favorite list and should be on yours, so enjoy!!!!!!!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One thing to understand....,
This review is from: City of God (DVD)
This movie is not just realistic in showing the extent of Latin American violence, but adds an artistic, sophisticated, indirect analysis of urban crime in cities such as Rio de Janeiro.
Many have compared it to Hollywood's crime dramas (Goodfellas, etc). This is not only inappropriate, but an unfair comparison. Goodfellas is based in a time and place much different from Rio's slums. The setting is richer and less violent, and the murder rates prove it. So for those who think that the violence in the movie is exaggerated, take it from a person who grew up in the world's most murderous city (Medellin, Colombia which has its share of shantytowns) and who has visisted Rio's favelas: City of God is Rio de Janerio's reflection upon itself, a fair, accurate critique of the urban decay, crime and corruption that are widespread in Latin America. Crime rates in Rio are many times higher than they are in ghettos in the US, which would explain American buyers' reactions to the film along the lines of: "this is so exaggerated". In Colombia, i have had scores of friends murdered at the hands of criminals. Please understand that this movie was the first I have seen that truly depicted violence in South America, despite some people's claims that it is unrealistic.
Future buyers should not expect this to be a Hollywood movie with good guys and bad guys. They should expect the reality of life in the world's most violent ghettos and embrace it. Most people who can afford DVD players have no idea what life is like for people in the 3rd world, and City of God is their opportunity to understand this lifestyle. If you want an unrealistic crime drama such as Scarface, stay away fromo this movie. But if you really want to know what MODERN organized crime is all about, then you should buy this instantly.
This movie is not about whether tourists should go to Brazil, either. In fact, Brazil is one of my favorite countries to visit because of the friendly people. If there is a lesson in City of God, it is that Brazil's criminals are not criminals by choice but are put in situations that force them into crime.
Fans of Goodfellas and Scarface, buy City of God if you want to know what organized crime is really like in the 21st century.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exhilarating film experience...,
This review is from: City of God (DVD)
It seems that repressed societies and low socio-economic environments provide an excellent backdrop, or impetus, for unique artistic and creative achievement.
This is evident in music i.e. Bob Marley hailed from the ghettos of Trenchtown, and The Beatles came from industrial Liverpool, but the above point is with particular reference to film making.
Films that highlight the detrimental impact of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the mass murder of Tutsis in Rwanda, the election process in Iran, or Eastern European women being sold into prostitution, all have one thing in common: They serve to open our eyes, and very often - hit home hard. These stories of suffering, hardship and turmoil transcend any particular place and region because they all relate to the human condition.
Fernando Meirelles' "City of God" is one such example. Set against the impoverished backdrop of the Brazilian `favelas' or ghettos, it's a vivid and powerful piece of film making that highlights social ills and the struggle of conscience.
Based on a true story, "City of God" provides an insight into the lives of characters that all emerge from similar backgrounds, their resulting attitudes, and the different choices they make. The film culminates on the streets of Rio De Janeiro's slums in the 1970s, where drugs, corruption, and crime are rampant, and the value for human life is practically non-existent.
The movie also importantly demonstrates the cyclical nature of life in such extreme and under-privileged conditions. The children of these slums (or "Runts" as they are referred to in the film) take to crime at an early age and are more concerned with getting hold of guns than going to school. There are exceptions, but for the majority of children born into this particular environment, a life of easy money in dealing drugs and robbing others far outweighs the incentive of an education and working an honest job.
Beautifully made and splendidly acted, this will keep you glued to the screen and prove to be an exhilarating film experience.
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City of God by Kátia Lund (DVD - 2004)