City of God
January 17, 2003
When most people hear Rio de Janeiro they think of Carnival and a resort city. This movie is going to show them a darker side of this South American metropolis. Braulio Mantovani bases the script on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Paulo Lins. One of Brazil’s best-known commercial directors, Fernando Meirelles, is at the helm of this movie along with co-director Katia Lund making her feature film debut.
The film tells the story of the City of God housing project from the viewpoint of two boys heading in different directions in their lives. City of God was built in the 1960s as a solution to Brazil’s housing and poverty problems. As the movie progresses to the 1980s, the complex becomes infested with drug dealers and their activities.
The two boys are Rocket (Alexandre Rodriguez) and Little Ze (Leandro Firmino de Hora). Rocket doesn’t have the stature, courage, or desire to be drawn into a life of crime. He discovers he has a special gift, the eye of an artist. He wants to be a photographer, but because of his circumstances he can’t afford a camera. Little Ze throws caution to the wind and proceeds headlong into a life of crime.
As the film progresses through time, Little Ze continues on his downhill slide and laughs in the face of death. Ultimately, Rocket gets himself out of the housing project, grows up, and realizes his lifelong dream. He comes back to City of God to chronicle the dreary situation of his meager beginnings, including Little Ze’s rise to become the “owner” of City of God.
The film had its world premiere at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival where Miramax picked it up for distribution. Once this movie had its Brazilian premiere three months later, it was a huge success. It was number one for its first two weekends and then dropped only to number two, where it remained for another two weeks. The wonderful reception to this very violent film led it to become Brazil’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Academy Awards. (Marty Doskins/BOP)