Review from The Vault: CITY OF GOD Review from 2008

City of God (2002): A review by Salty
Cidade de Deus (City of God) is a housing project built in the 1960’s that–in the early 80’s–became one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro. The tale tells the stories of many characters whose lives sometimes intersect. However, all is seen through the eyes of a singular narrator: Buscapé, a poor black youth too frail and scared to become an outlaw but also too smart to be content with underpaid, menial jobs. He grows up in a very violent environment. The odds are all against him. But Buscapé soon discovers that he can see reality differently than others. His redemption is that he’s been given an artist’s point of view as a keen-eyed photographer. As Buscapé is not the real protagonist of the film–only the narrator–he is not the one who makes the decisions that will determine the sequence of events. Nevertheless, not only his life is attached to what happens in the story, but it is also through Buscapé’s perspective of life that one can understand the complicated layers and humanity of a world, apparently condemned to endless violence. Written by Sujit R. Varma.


City of God
City of God

City of God is an Academy Award-nominated 2002 Brazilian film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. It was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins which are both based on a true story; the war between Knockout Ned and Li’l Zé is based on their real life counterparts. It stars Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Jonathan Haagensen, Douglas Silva and Seu Jorge. The tagline is “Fight and you’ll never survive….. Run and you’ll never escape”.

Most of the actors had never acted before, and were, in fact, residents of favelas such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus itself.

The film received four Academy Award nominations in 2004: Best Cinematography (César Charlone), Best Directing (Meirelles), Best Editing (Daniel Rezende) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Mantovani). Before that, in 2003 it had been chosen to be Brazil’s runner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was not nominated to be one of the five finalists.

This film is perfect in every way!! The cinematography is truly inspiring, the acting is perfect even though all but one person in the entire film had never acted before. The editing, the story – this film will blow your mind. It has some scenes that I found extremely disturbing. I loathe seeing children hurt in any way but I do think this was necessary to highlight the depravity and depths the mindless drug addled idiots will go to. This is a film of the circumstances we are born into and what we will do given what we are created with. Some go one way and others take a completely different route. I highly recommend this to all. I found this film is worth $15- out of $16.

Trivia: (May contain some small spoilers)
1) At the end the Runts (Caixa Baixa gang) talk about making a list of people they want to kill. The rat boys grew to become the now feared CV (Comando Vermelho) or Red Command, the most notorious gang in Rio. The CV is also known to have a death list.
2) The scene where the gang prays before the war was not scripted. During the shooting a young boy, who used to be on a real gang, asked director Fernando Meirelles if the group was not going to pray like they always did before any important confrontation with the enemies. Meirelles told him to lead the prayer as they shot the scene.
3) All of the amateur actors were recruited from favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro, and a couple of them – eg. Buscapé/Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) – actually lived in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) itself.
4) When we hear Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) talking to Marina (‘Graziella Moretto’ ) about how “he never took a hot bath”, that was not scripted. Actually, that was Rodrigues and Moretto talking off camera, during a pause in the shooting, when the boy (who lived on the slums) was telling her about his life.


In new scoring from 2013 – this is 9.5/10.