City of God

The Film “City of God” exemplifies the struggles of Brazilian ghetto citizens, who face crime, corruption and a high volume drug trade.  The film is an analyzation of the drug trade and its affect on the citizens of the “City of God” community, through a retelling of photographer Rocket’s encounters with the local drug “barons”, with Lil’ Ze being the “evil/criminal” mirror to Rocket’s “normal” boy character.  The entire film centers around the idea of leaving the Favela’s and going to a more prosperous location, while surrounded by the Drug Trade and violence that surrounds the squatter communities.  Though Rocket appears to be the only one to do this without committing to a life of crime (though ironically, crime is what gives him his chance to leave, as his pictures of the Favela gang and Lil’ Ze are what garner him recognition at the paper).  Throughout the film a reoccurring theme is presented by various characters (Ned, Brothel workers, etc) to get an education so that these “kids” (which they are in most every sense of the word) will be able to succeed and leave the ghetto. However, as the film continually presents, these young men will continue to turn to violence and incompetence then work for an Education and legal route to success.

    However the film appears to over dramatize violence as the only option for prosperity in the City of God.  According to Pino, a “goodly number of squatters held steady jobs,” (30), though this work was still on average unable to support a family, and the availability of work was dependent upon the location of the Favela and other factors.  However, due to the frequency of “informal” economical participation as Pino describes, led to illicit activities to help support families.  In addition to this the large number of “unemployed young males” as shown in the film, were without work thus potentially leading to the turn to crime as a means of income and of unity.  The film presents this never ending cycle by showing the take over of Lil’ Ze by the Runts at the end of the film, and their dialogue.  They speak of making “black lists” though most of them are unable to read, paralleling the choice their faced with, as Rocket was: education or violence.  Though, as the film displays, in these situations violence often prevails (thus creating a vicious cycle).  The film also shows the power these “barons” possessed politically and legally.  The government is almost non existent within the film, with the exception of the Police (which are corrupt), showing the lack of control and leadership in these Favela’s, which in turn allow for the drug lords to exert their control over the people, with the Police supporting their efforts for income under the table.

Oliveria states that this type of life is caused by the, “abandonment of neighborhoods, crime, substandard education, unemployment, the decline of ‘family values’” in these particular neighborhoods (73).  He also states that “Favela” does not carry the same “connotations” as Ghetto in America, as the racial stigmata surrounding the American Ghetto is not the same as it is with a Brazilian Favela (“Favelas are not exclusively racial enclaves” [73]).  In this, he also shows the lack of priority given to race in Brazilian communities verse the USA, as displayed in the film with the various races interacting with one another, without much importance given to ethnicity, rather putting more importance on class. 

The film gives insight into the Favela’s of Brazil and the struggle to survive these people face each day in the light of violence and squalor.  The storytelling presented allowed for each character to be developed, and to show the choices of life presented to these young men and the difficulty in successfully leaving the “City of God”.