Cidade de Deus (2002)

Released in 2002, the film Cidade de Deus portrays the lives of residents living in the “favelas” of Rio de Janerio. Located in the suburban outskirts of the second largest city in Brazil, the favelas or shantytowns were originally meant to serve as housing quarters for impoverished citizens, but instead have provided places for growing gang activity, drug trade, unemployment, and crime . The film Cidade de Deus allows the audience to get an exceptional look inside the ongoing struggles and difficulties of the favela’s while at the same time, combines individual true stories to get the film’s plot across. Narrated by the main character, “Rocket”, the plot skillfully intertwines the stories of many different characters, whose paths all cross, enabling the build and lead up to one defining moment/scene at the end of the film.

Cidade de Deus is based on the novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, which was released in 1997, and then re released along with the film in 2002. The film used non-professional actors, some of who were even from the City of God. Although they were non-professional actors, the actors were trained in the art of acting for an extended period of time before filming (Stephen Hart: Cidade de Deus). In the article and analysis by Stephen Hart, Cidade de Deus, Hart mentions that the film most inherently addresses the lives of the lower classes as being manipulated by the mediatic, governmental, and law enforcing powers of the Brazilian society. This statement is quite evident and can be seen throughout the entire movie. An example of the manipulative law enforcing powers in the film happens towards the end of the movie when the character Li’l Ze is ushered into an alley way by the police and instead of being arrested and hauled off to jail, is robbed of his money and set free to go on committing murders.

The whole setting of the film is in the favelas of Rio de Janerio. In the article by Julio Cesar Pino, “Sources on the History of Favelas in Rio de Janerio” an explanation as to the existence of the favelas is thoroughly researched. In the article, Julio explains that a housing shortage in Rio caused the explosion in shantytown construction after 1940 and because Rio does not legally recognize the existence of favelas, there is little documentation of the subject (Julio Cesar Pino: Sources on the History of Favelas in Rio de Janerio). One source that Julio mentions is from the Institu Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE). He states that the organization is able to provide specialized studies documenting there being “a symbiotic relationship between industry and the favelas, and the gradual shift of the squatter population away from the hills and toward the suburbs of Rio” (Julio Cesar Pino: Sources on the History of Favelas in Rio de Janerio). This is an interesting find and allows one to assume the possibility of labor conditions playing a key factor in the impoverishment of the favelas. Another big point Julio makes on the favelas, is that they are very unlikely to vanish from Rio de Janerio. He states that three generations have grown up in them and still no solution has been found.

Cidade de Deus gives the audience a clear insight into the struggles of the favela life and portrays many good examples on the violence encountered in them each day. The main character Rocket explains it best in the film stating, “Fight and you’ll never survive, run and you’ll never escape”, leaving the viewer with a sick sense as to what is must be like to live in such awful conditions.