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CITY OF GOD, 2002
Through the eyes of a young boy named Rocket (Rodrigues), City of God explores the growth of crime during the 60ís and 70ís in Rio de Janero and the influence it had on the community, particularly the on youth.
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Adapted from the novel of the same name and winner of four Academy Awards, City of God is an explosive thrilling venture into the slums of Rio de Janero where drug dealers and corrupt cops rule the streets. A young boy named Rocket looks to break away from this life and aspire to be something more; that is of course if he can get out of Dodge. The longer he remains in town the more embroiled he becomes in the politics of the drug dealers.
Part of the appeal or allure of City of God is the way the narrative is told. The storytelling is compelling and exciting to watch. The filmís fast paced style never lets a dull moment slide by. Directors Meirellas and Lund are excellent at keeping your attention on the screen either through the intense action sequences, emotional performances from the talented ensemble cast or the sharp smart dialogue. City of God is a masterpiece unfolding before your eyes.
There are several strong performances from this gifted bunch of actors. The quiet but memorable Alexandre Rodrigues is at times a nice break from the chaotic world we are thrown in. The contrast to the good natured protagonist comes in the form of a notorious psychotic drug dealer named Lil Ze played by Ze Pequeno. According to the creators of the film, this is based on a true story with real characters, meaning at one point Lil Ze or someone close to him roamed the streets of Brazil. There is little compassion, if any, in Lil Ze who uses force and intimidation to maintain power. Every time this character walks into a room he leaves with a trail of blood following.
An unforgettable scene occurs with Lil Ze and gang of hoodlums cornering two frightened children, no older than 10. To make sure they respect him, Lil Ze asks both boys which part of their body he can shoot; arm, foot or hand, then he leaves it for them to decide. The agony and torment they go through is unbearable to watch but luring all the same. This unrelenting scene captivates you from start to finish and never lets you go.
Horrific events were common in the City of God during that time. Children carrying AK-47ís and M16ís were not rare or unheard of because the environment they grew up in led them to that lifestyle. A person like Rocket who dreamed of a future outside of Rio Janero was rare. There were no choices. The youth was expected to lead a life of crime because their minds were cultivated into believing in that way of life.
But despite where he comes from, Rocket breaks the pattern and never lets his dream slip away or become corrupt by the influence of others. He continued to pursue his goals while also surviving by being in the belly of the beast. At one point Rocket works for Lil Ze as a personal photographer capturing images of him and his gang. These rare and exclusive photos, even images of corrupt cops, helped to jump start Rocketís career working at a newspaper.
While the directors shed light on a topic not many are aware of, they never look to answer the question of how to fix this situation. Maybe there is no answer, even though thatís not the point. The film does its job by evoking a positive or negative reaction from the audience. Every moment pounds away at you and forces you to watch because what is being shown is real and happening. The directors send a deep message to be aware that there is a world outside your bubble, one that so few realize and even less attempt to acknowledge. A handful of the actors in the movie actually live in the Rio Janero making the experience even more real not only for us, but for them as well.
The year City of God was released the film found its way on the list of top 10 movies of 2002. The film was well received by critics and earned several prestigious awards throughout the year. Considered by many a masterpiece because of its innovative narrative and engaging storytelling supported by a strong ensemble cast and violent subject matter, City of God is a compelling film that draws you in and never letís go.