The City of God introduces its audience into the world of crime in Ghettos in Brazil. Commonly called Favelas, these poor shantytowns are spread through out the suburbs around Rio de Janeiro. From 1940 to 1969, Rio experienced an increase in urbanization and population in the city and surrounding areas. Up until 1947, the most common area of work in Brazil was a Lavrador, or farm hand. Many of these farm hands were former slaves who lived on plantations. However due to a lack in the advancement in mechanization technology and an increase in labor intensive health issues; the production of rice, sugarcane, and oranges decreased by almost one-half. Thus many workers were forced to immigrate to the city and the surrounding areas for any work that they could find. This immigration led to the expanses of poor ghettos, and here we find the subject of Cidade de Deus.
In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to a famous local trio who rob local business to support themselves, friends, and family. Crime in the Favelas increased due to population growth and a consistent lack of steady jobs. According to Julio César Pino in his article, “Labor in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, 1940-1969”, the population in the ghetto can be split into three distinct elements. First is the proletariat: who were citizens holding stable employment with steady wages, most likely living around the city before mass migration. Secondly, the subproletarians: who worked short-term jobs with out contracts, steady wages, and job security. And lastly, the majority of the ghetto consisted of the unemployed. This distinction in class led to violence, forcing youth to lead a life of crime and drug trafficking. The main character Rocket lived in a family that would be classified as subproletarians. His father didn’t have a steady job, but made a living selling fish in the Favelas. Rocket doesn’t want to carry on his father’s profession but dreams of becoming a photographer. His brother is a member in the crime trio, who becomes a hero to young rocket and his friends, and becomes a model for continuing crime in the Favelas. Eventually the youth become old enough to think and kill for themselves and a new generation of crime lords is formed. We see this trend with the rise and fall of Li’l Zé; to the creation of a gang of “runts” who decide it is their turn to run the ghetto and regulate drug trade. This never ending cycle of killing continues with out a better future of work and school in the City of God. Rocket is able to find a career, but the majority of youth will continue to be trapped in a life of crime.