Cidade De Deus is a film about the favela known as the “City of God” on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The film is based on a true story and is trying to portray what life is like for people who live in that area. The city itself has some people who are tying to make a living by running a business or working for someone but there are also plenty of drug dealers, thieves and murderers. There is a feeling in the film that this is not new to the city of god and the cops only seem to arrest the people who harm people of means. The name of the favela itself is rather ironic as Stephern Hart points out in his article about the City of God. The original city of god was described by St. Augustine as a world of “peace, love and harmony” and the favela is exactly the opposite. Besides the name there are other religious references within the movie that Hart points out, such as the ceremony that Lil’ Dice goes through to become Lil’ Ze, this appears to be some sort of shamanistic ritual and effectively gives Lil’ Ze power to kill his enemies and take control of the loosely organized crime in the area.
At the heart of the crime and violence found in the faveala appears to be poverty. In the article Favelas and Ghettos by ney dos Santos Oliveira he points out that much like in America, slavery was responsible for some of the connection between race and economic prosperity, at least for several generations after slavery was abolished. As seen in Cidade de Deus most of the poor favelados are black and most of the white people seen in the film are either cops or have a slightly higher economic upbringing than Rocket, Thiago is one such example. Oliveira also points out that the favelas were created by the governement as a place to remove the poor to when the slums became overcrowded and began to prove an issue of public health and safety. So instead of trying to fix the problem they created the favelas and moved all the poor people there. This can be one reason why the hoodlums like Lil’ Ze run the favela and not the cops, there is very little in the favela that the cops really care to protect and even when they want to they have to enter the favela with a large number of men to be able to fight the gangs.
Much of the favela is similar to the ghetto, as is the point of Oliveira’s article. There is a large population of people of African descent who were slaves and in many cases one of the only ways people see to improve their economic and social station is through crime and violence. Lil’ Ze really epitomises this line of thinking in Cidade de Deus.