Masterpieces #21: City of God

City of God
About City of God (2002)
City of GodCelebrated 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 a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a frail and scared young boy will grow up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with a different eye: the eye of an artist. In the face of impossible odds, his brave ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world and ultimately his way out!

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City of God (2002)

Based on a true story, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund’s City of God depicts the brutal world of drug dealing and gun battles in the midst of a city where dying young is not uncommon. A hard-hitting but equally brilliant film, City of God is uncompromising in its portrayal of two boys – Rocket and Lil Dice – that grow up in the City of God during the Sixties and by the Seventies have taken completely different paths. Lil Dice has immersed himself in the violent world of drug warfare while Rocket wishes to be free of the city and to pursue his dream of photography.

The film begins with the story of the Tender Trio that commits small robberies in the city but are generous in sharing their ill-gotten gains so no harm comes to them when the authorities arrive asking questions of the locals. Lil Dice, though only a boy, inspires the gang to rob a nearby hotel but when they reach their target, the Tender Trio leave a frustrated Lil Dice as lookout while they proceed with the robbery. After Lil Dice breaks a window to signal the retreat, the Tender Trio makes their escape while Lil Dice enters the hotel and murders everyone inside before seemingly disappearing.

In the Seventies City of God sees Lil Dice, now known as Lil Ze (Leandro Firmino), join with best friend Benny (Phelippe Haagensen) in taking over the businesses of every drug dealer in the city, save one, Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele). He is spared by Benny who is the only one capable of holding Lil Ze back from complete carnage. While Lil Ze becomes more powerful as the head of a wide network of drug dealing, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is focused on being a photographer and losing his virginity. A temporary peace in the City of God is soon broken and all out war fills the streets as the rival drug empires compete for control.

City of God will be a hard film for some to watch. The image of young children wandering the streets wielding guns is difficult to comprehend and some of the atrocities committed by the brutal Lil Ze are hard to stomach, leaving nothing to the imagination. Though a gritty film it is impossible not to be enthralled. Rocket’s fight for survival and how he brought the events of the City of God to the rest of the world is an amazing story. It’s a brilliant reflection of the fiercely competitive world of drug dealing and, with anyone potentially being ousted every day, the film will keep you guessing right up until the gripping conclusion when Lil Ze and Carrot’s frequent gun fights and skirmishes throughout the city finally erupt into one final, decisive battle.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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