Cidade de Deus (City of God), 2002, was a film about the slums in a city of Rio de Janeiro directed by Fernando Meirelles. The main character in a film was a boy named Rocket. The plot is about Rocket’s life growing up in the violent, gang-filled slums of City of God. The beginning of the film takes place present day when Rocket is caught between Lil’ Z, his gang and the police after a chicken escapes becoming a meal. The middle of the film is a flashback of Rocket’s childhood, certain events that happened, and the people involved. For example, ‘”The Seventies”, “The Story of the Apartment”, and “Benny’s Farewell”‘ (Stephen M. Hart, 204) are all short stories in the flashback of Rocket’s childhood. All the stories involve influential people in the slums of City of God and how they played a role in Rocket’s story. At the end of the film, Rocket finally escapes the lifestyle and the gangs in the City of God and becomes a successful photograhper.
Cidade de Deus depicts the real times and conditions in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The film is based on a novel and “the novel is based on a true story of life of a number of gang members living in the City of God, a violent shanty town on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. More than a novel, Paulo Lins’s work can be described as a ‘testimonio’, that is, a fictionalised version of a real-life story based on real-life characters” (Hart 205). Because the film is based on a true story, it obviously shows how life really was in City of God, Rio de Janeiro. “The life which is portrayed within the film, as in the novel, is a dog-eat-existence, one in which, as Rocket says in the establishing sequence, ‘Fight and you’ll never survive. Rucn and you’ll never escape’” (Hart 205). People were poor and jobs were hard to come by so they had to survive somehow. People turned to gang violence and drugs to make a living during hard times like Lil Z did in Cidade de Deus. “In Rio de Janeiro, the great majority of the homeless population is black, in no small part becauase of gentrification of the favelas and the displacement of the extremely poor” (Oliveira, Favelas and Ghettos, 82). It was no surprise to see this type of gang violence in the slums. Not only did in happen in Rio de Janeiro, it happenes all around the world in poor communities. There was struggle in these communities on all different levels including law-enforcement and political. “In spite of the success stories of favelados, however, the experiences of community groups in both the United States and Brazil demonstrate that political struggle concentrated only in the area of service delivery is not sufficient to prevent displacement or to improve the material or cultural conditions of people’s lives” (Oliveira, Favelas and Ghettos, 85). Everything surrounding the slums made them the type of places they were.
There are some religious symbolism in the film as Hart points out in his article. There is one that is the most obvious which is the name of the film “City of God”, ”an iromic inverted image of St Augustine’s description of The City of God, a world in which peace, love and harmony reign” (Hart, 207). This is definitely not the case in the film because the theme throughout the whole story is violence. “War, hatred, and chaos are the order of the day” (Hart, 207). Overall, Cidade de Deus did a very good job at portraying real life in a small shanty town known as “The City of God” and certainly left nothing to the imagination.