Cidade de Deus

Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund directed Cidade de Deus, a film which looks at the daily life of those living in a favela on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.  The film focuses on the gang activity in the favela which included violence, drugs, and robbery.  The basic state of living for those living in favelas is portrayed also.

The film begins by introducing many of the characters as children.  Even though they live in very impoverished conditions, they still aspire to gain regular employment.  In the opening scenes, several of the characters discuss what they would like to become.  Rocket himself expresses the desire to not be a fishmonger like his father, then later on decides on photography as a career.  Although these children had aspirations of moving up in the social world, the reality of the world they lived in becomes clear quickly.  As Pinot discusses in detail, the population of the favelas became a “subproletariat”, where the workers were on a tier below the common working class of Rio de Janeiro (Pinot, 18).  Employment was often temporary and wages well below the state mandated minimum wage. While this was beneficial to the upper classes of Brazil, it caused for decreased wages both for the proletariat and the subproletariat in Rio de Janeiro (Pinot, 18-19),  It is for this reason that many turned to crime and other unofficial forms of work for income in the favelas.

One important theme in the film is the role of the authorities in the favela.  The government is noticeably absent with the exception of a corrupt police force.  Hart points out how the police acted in “hypocritical ways” as a response to the crime and gang actions in the favela (Hart, 206).  The officers portrayed in the film were actually part of the criminal activity rather than an opponent to it.  They were essentially a rival gang to that of Little Z’s.  Their only opposition to the criminal activity comes when they have been crossed by Little Z.  They allow the activity to continue so long as they continue to profit.  This corrupt environment is able to exist because the favela was not a focus of the larger metropolitan areas of Rio or its government officials.  The favela was not a concern to the political leaders, unless they wished to destroy it as in the case of Pria do Pinto (Pinot, 27-28).

Cidade de Deus gives a look into the lives of those living near the absolute bottom of the socioeconomic ranks in Rio de Janeiro.  It follows the lives of several young men from childhood to adulthood to show how few options one had for gainful employment during the middle part of the twentieth century.  While most of the characters fell into the gang life, Rocket was the one exception.  His successful escape, as well as another employee at the newspaper, shows it was not impossible to advance socially from the favela life but extremely unlikely (Hart, 207).