City of God

City of God tells the story of the rise of the favela by the same name in the 1960s and 1970s.  It is a violent and ruthless tale of the subaltern classes of Brazil.  These forgoten people of society fight to make their way in a world where they are unequipped with education or means to better themselves.  The result is sensless violence and exploitation.  The favelas are occupied mostly by blacks and this leads to the question of race in this society.  Brazil has long held an idea of racial democracy, but it is clear this is not the case.  However, scholars tend to explain the problems of race as class conflict instead (Ney dos Santos Oliveria).  It seems to be no coincidence that the decesdants of an enslaved people would be the ones continually oppressed to this day.  If one has no oppurtunity for education, suitable living conditions, or jobs then how can they be expected to ever rise from the lower class?  That is exactly the problem with the people in City of God.  The favela is hastily built to accomodate the refugees of the floods.  There are no paved streets and no electricity.  The oppurtunities to make a living are few and involve hard labor.  The original hoods of the City of God find it much easier to make their money by robbing.  Education is not required and is probably not of the best quality and so many kids opt to take the easier and more “glamorous” way out by falling into a life of drugs and violence.

Li’l Z is a fascinating character.  Not only is he a product of his environment, but he is a violent sociopath as well.  Since he was a child he has had a love of killing.  When he goes on his first job as a mere child with the three older hoods, he purposefully scares them off so that he can go into the motel and kill every last person inside.  The Tender Trio certainly used force and violence, but they were not ruthless killers like Li’l Z was.  He continues through life in this manner, killing his way to the top.  Only through ruthless, mass murder does he acheive his total control of the city.  However, towards the end of the movie we see how else society is involved of the oppression of its own people.  “What this film does is address the way in which the lives of the subaltern classes are manipulated by the mediatic, governmental, and law-enforcing powers within the society,” (Stephen Hart).  The middle and upper classes of Brazil don’t really know what is happening in the favelas nor do they care.  The police especially are fine with letting the gangsters kill each other off.  Not only do they do nothing to stop it though, they actively contribute to the street war that arises between Li’l Z’s army and the army of Carrot and Knockout Ed.

The ending of City of God is the very powerful.  The war is over, Li’l Z and Knockout Ned are dead along with countless others, Carrot and other gangsters have been arrested, all the major players in the crime cricuit have been removed.  Then we see the “Runts.”  Children no older than 10 or 11, murder the drug lord of City of God and beginning planning there own take over.  They discuss all the people they will have to kill and the reasons they give for doing so are absolutely absurd.  They want to make a black list, but none of them can read or write.  And so the movie has ended, but the violence will continue in the same manner it always has, perpetuated by ignorance and oppression.