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City of God
City of God
Actors: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen
Genres: Indie & Art House
R     2004     2hr 10min

Celebrated with worldwide acclaim, this powerful true story of crime and redemption has won numerous prestigious awards around the globe! The streets of the world's most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro's "City of God," are ...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen
Genres: Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House
Studio: Miramax Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/08/2004
Original Release Date: 01/01/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2002
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 10min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

Seeking to survive in a brutal environment...
M. B. Alcat | Los Angeles, California | 04/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

""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 :)

Belen Alcat"
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 06/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Brutal, disturbing and brilliant. I loved it!
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 03/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
A descent into the living hell of Rio's "Cidade de Deus"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""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."