In Labor in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, 1940-1969, Julio Pino noted that a only a small portion of the favelas working poor fit into the category of, “full-time self-employment in petty commodity production and trade.“ However, the movie focuses on the portrayal of this small portion of working poor through its depiction of the drug market in the favelas. The drug market in the favelas produced a petty commodity (drugs) and traded it for cash, or in Benny’s relationship with Carrot the trade for drugs was clothes, a watch, and other valuables. Unfortunately, as evidenced in the movie, a growing drug market in the favelas created violent conflicts as a result from increased competition.
In the movie, Li’l Dice uses his demented personality, created through life in the favelas, to violently take over and monopolize the drug market. Once Li’l Dice gained control of virtually the entire drug market he began to enforce a form of law and order to appease the police. Li’l Dice’s also instilled a since of loyalty within his gang. In one particular scene, Li’l Dice enforces the law when he and his followers corner a group of delinquents that were guilty of stealing and other mischievous behavior. In the scene a young new member of Li’l Dice’s gang must prove his loyalty and shoot one of the guilty youths. The movie concludes with a shootout between Li’l Dice’s gang and vengeful Knockout Ned’s gang where most are killed except for Li’l Dice who is later murdered by a group of kids.
As Stephen Hart pointed out in the part of his writing The Image of the Subaltern, “[Rockets] ability to take photographs…which are appetizing to the middle-class press, Rocket escapes his roots…” This further adds to Julio Pino’s point that, “In the course of this generation a notable segment of the favela labor force rose from the ranks of temporary laborers into the proletariat.” In other words, if you are lucky enough, like Rocket, to provide a product that appeals to the middle-class proletariat then you might find a way out of the favelas. However, if you have a fight or flight response to the circumstances brought on by social inequalities you will find yourself stuck or killed in the favela. Rocket, like anyone else that escaped their roots in the favela, was simply lucky.