Sunday, February 10, 2008
The Fernando Meirelles film City of God, produced by Andrea Barata Ribeiro and Maulcio Andrade Ramos and written by Bráulio Mantovani, produces an effect that shocks some viewers into awe as if they were cleanly hit by the hammer called revelation. The movie begins with a knife being sharpened, food being prepared violently, loud, quick-paced music being played in the background by bongos and tambourines, all of which quickly turn into a chase after an escaping feast item (a chicken). The pursuers begin to shoot at the chicken, but to no avail. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a boy with a camera living in the City of God comes across the chaser’s target and is asked to capture it. In the process of catching the chicken, Rocket finds himself in big trouble when a patty wagon parks in the background and policemen quickly rush out baring guns. The group of young men (who turn out to be gang members) chasing the chicken reacts by bringing out their own arsenal of guns. Time rewinds at this point 20 years back as Rocket reflects on how the City of God came to be.
It’s the 60’s in the city outskirts where the poor have been forced out into. The poor create a community which would evolve into what would be known as the City of God. All seem fine despite the occurrences of truck hijacking and robbery until murders break out. Li’l Dice, the youngest member of the gang of thieves, turns out to be the killer. The scene fast forwards into the future wherein drugs and weapons are introduced into the City of God which no longer looks like a desolated dust bowl. Li’l Dice, still in the City of God now refers to himself as Li’l Zi (Leandro Fimino da Hora) and is a figure of authority and power as a drug trafficker and gang leader.
The movie depicts life in the slums as one filled with violence, death, sex, drugs and corruption. It has brothel massacres, children pressured into killing other children, people being shot left and right, gang wars, cops being paid off, and all this while getting high on drugs at the same time.
The atmosphere that the movie sets is dark and depressing. Even during daytime, the sense of poverty and hopelessness of the City of God is made apparent with frequent killings, drug addiction, and unlawful acts of violence and delinquency. There are the occasional tension-relieving moments like when Rocket is trying to impress this girl that he likes. However, despite this hint hope or happiness in the movie, it is always either accompanied by drugs, violence, sex, corruption, or it switches directly into a scene mainly for those purposes. An example is that Rocket has always liked this girl that his group of friends hangs out with at the beach; however, when he does get a chance to impress her, it has to be done by obtaining drugs for her which then leads to a scene where Lil Zi takes over the place that traffics drugs and shoots the owner (Blacky, Rocket’s friend) in the leg.
In the end, the true story-based movie reveals life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro as harsh and extreme where one has to be corrupt, willing to kill and willing to risk their life in order to survive. I’m not saying that this happens in all slums; however, I assert that the movie not only shows life in the slums but can also relate to the harshness of reality in Third World countries where poverty is a norm. People across the world do realize that the poor exist; nonetheless, media has become ‘tamed’ by having details left out or kept from the public. Watching the movie really does shock people into stopping to think about the lives of the people in the slums and what they go through and what really goes on in the world. For some, this movie may be a shocking representation of real life, but for those who fearlessly live in areas of lawless violence, it is still as equally satisfying to see it anyway. In effect of this sado-voyeurism, interested watchers—like those in the City of God—seem to become accessories to the crime.