City of God – Feb.17 @ 6pm

City of God
Dir. Fernando Meirelles, 2002

Feb. 17, 6pm @ Taylor Room (Sidney Smith Hall, basement: 619)

Based on events that took place in one of the most dangerous favelas in Rio de Janeiro, “City of God” charts three decades of violence and gang warfare starting in the 1960s. Adapted from Paulo Lins’ novel of the same name, “City of God” refers to the “Cidade de Deus” housing project in which the film is set, and from which most of the young actors were cast in open auditions.

The story is loosely narrated by Rocket, a youth in the area who comes of age through the film and dreams of being a photographer. Through his lens and peripheral position to the warring factions, Rocket witnesses the rise of L’il Ze – a charismatic and ruthlessly violent gang leader – who reigned as king of the drug lords during the 1970s. The film depicts extreme and shocking violence, all the more brutal for the youth of its characters.

Some reviews of the film compare it to Hollywood gangster movies, such as Goodfellas, since the genre can address issues of violence, morality and tribalism. However, it is also a very political film, exploring the circumstances that breed gang life and anarchic violence in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Shot largely with hand-held cameras, the film evokes a documentary- like style, and uses freeze-frames, montage, flashback, quick-cutting and lighting effects to create an energetic, frenetic, brilliant and brutal film.

Recommended readings:

  • Janice Perlman (2005) The Myth of Marginality Revisited: The Case of Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, 1969-2003   perlman_2005_flavelas
  • Enrique Desmond Arias (2006) Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks and Public Security
  • James Holston (2009) Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil
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~ by acerve on February 17, 2010.

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