Brazil, 1960's, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970's: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980's: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God. Written by
Jeff Mellinger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If you're unlucky to be born into a socially, economically and racially isolated community that has poverty, crime, drugs and violence as its everyday realities, the odds are stacked incredibly high against you. It literally takes so much effort, strength, struggle and plain ol' good fortune to simply avoid becoming a gangster, let alone do anything more with life. Most who find themselves in the situation described above never even enter this fight and out of those that do - only the rare ones succeed.
"City of God" depicts this conundrum masterfully.
In a Rio slum called Cidade de Deus we meet character after character that has the right idea, knowledge and courage to get out but somehow always ends up being pulled right back into this vicious circle. Becoming a hoodlum in Cidade de Deus isn't just a fringe career option for disenchanted rebels and social outcasts - it's the main industry.
The images of gun toting pre-teen killers are very disturbing and Meirelles uses them relentlessly to underscore just how hopeless and frighteningly predetermined life is for these kids. Many of them can't read or write but already know how to use a gun and kill without remorse. In a particularly harrowing scene, local drug lord Ze Pequeno or Lil' Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora) exacts revenge on a disobedient gang of 9 and 10 year olds by incapacitating two of them and forcing one of his own kid soldiers, as initiation of sorts, to choose which one of the two he wants to kill. Faced with death, one of the kids starts crying crocodile tears; suddenly all the bravado is gone and he is shown for what he truly is - a desperately misdirected infant.
'If only these people had more options....' is the sentiment reinforced with every gruesome event.
Of course, this lifestyle comes a little more naturally to some than to others. Ze Pequeno, for example, from an early age when he was known as Dadinho / Lil' Dice shows a considerable lack of aversion to blood and death. In another aptly choreographed scene so that we don't know what exactly happened until much later, he more than 'holds his own' alongside much older gangsters during a motel stickup.
Also on hand is a colourful palette of characters. From our narrator Buscape / Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) whose ticket out of the slum is his love of photography over to people like laidback Bene / Benny (Philippe Haagensen), followed by Ze's fierce rival Cenoura / Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) or good guy turned bad (although it's not so simple) Mane Galinha / Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge) we see a multidimensional, pulsating, alive community that seems in need of a strong, sustained outside push to finally stop chasing its own tail and get out of this destructive cycle.
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