The 2002 film, City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles, depicts the culture of one of Rio de Janeiro’s favellas or slums, in a quite stark and brutal manner. “City of God” highlights the brutallity and violence that characterize these forsaken slums. The narrator and probably the most sympethic character in the film is Rocket, who takes the audience through a number of stories about different importanct characters and their violent rise and fall in the City of God. All of these stories are closely interconnected and show various important aspects of the violent life in the City of God, including extremely poor economic conditions and low living standards, the rise of cocaine, and police corruption.
At the beginning of the film we are shown the story of the “Tender Trio.” The first thing that the audience notices is the exremely poor living conditions within the City of God. There is not even electricity installed yet in the favella and Rocket later remarks that he has never had a bath with hot running water before. Immediately one is exposed to the violence which charcterizes the entire film. While the younger kids are playing soccer, one of the members of the tender trio draws his revolver and shoots their ball, the tender trio then immediately goes and robs a gas truck. One of the most violent scenes of the film occurs when the tender trio, accompanied by Lil Dice, later known as Lil Z, robs a motel/ brothel. Lil Dice goes into the motel after the others have left and slaughters everyone inside, in an attempt to satisfy his lust for killing. Julio Cesar Pino gives some insight into the conditions that made these slums, filled with violence, possible in Rio. He states that, “Rio de Janeiro, from 1940 to 1969, expierenced rapid urbanization and a decline in the importance of industry to the local economy, resulting in an informal working class alongside the proletariat.” (Pino, 18) This rapid urbanization, drawing numerous poor people to the favellas located on the peripheries of the city made conditions perfect for violent crime.
The introduction of the drug trade only makes life more violent for the inhabitants of the City of God. Lil Ze uses his extremely violent tendencies to seize control of most of the city’s drug trade, dealing primarily in cocaine, which brings in far mor money that marijuana. With this new drug, and the large amount of money brought in by it, violence continues to escalate. As Stephen M. Hart states, “The life which is portrayed in the film, as in the novel, is a dog-eat-dog existance, one in which, as Rocket says in the establishing sequence, ‘Fight an you’ll never survive, run and you’ll never escape.”(Hart 205) Luckily Rocket does finally manage to escape from the violence of the “City of God” and becomes a photographer after he takes pictures of the final battle in the film, in which Lil Ze is killed by the runts after the police take thousands of dollars from him, highlighting police corruption within the City. At the end of “City of God” we see the runts beginning to establish themselves as another brutal force in the city, showing little hope for the future.