Ciudad de Dios, directed by Fernando Meirelles in 2002, is a pretty accurate representation of the life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s. Seeing as the film is based on the novel by the same name by Paulo Lins, even the smallest of details were not ignored in creating this realistic and brutal view of survival in the slums of Brazil. Even the people acting in the movie were authentic, as Stephen Hart explains. They were all “non-professional actors, they were trained in the art of acting for an extended period of time.” (Hart 206) They were recruited from the slums of Rio and trained for about a year in preparation for their movie debuts, with a couple of them even reigning from the city of god. This is quite a feat, especially when considering scenes such as the little boy exhaustively crying after being shot in the foot by Ze.
Discussed in detail in Oliviera’s Favelas and Ghettos: Race and Class in Rio de Janeiro and New York city, are the differences between ghettos in the United States and the favelas in brazil, and how they came about. In the film, the city of god begins as a small shanty town for those who have nowhere to live, to an overcrowed favela, with its own new class struggle internally. Oliviera mentions that in the US the struggle in the ghettos are generally between blacks and whites. However, since brazil is predominantly black, the struggle is between those more fortunate and the less fortunate. This is very well explained through the drug ring. There is the constant battle for power. Those who have it fight to keep it, those without kill those who those who they want to take it from…..”Fight and you’ll never survive. Run and you’ll never escape.” (Hart 205)
Staying the course with authenticity, it is very interesting that some of the characters were based on real people. It seems a difficult task to tie in the different stories of real people while maintaining a captivating plot. The film even went so far as to recreate the actual news video of Knockout Ned after he was arrested and released from jail. The scene from the movie is pretty much identical to the real one. Also, the jobs shown and talked about in the film are well represented. In Pino’s Labor in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, 1940 -1969 , talked about are difficulties those in the favelas faced regarding jobs, and making enough money just to survive. There, the subproletariat laborers were the most numerous, which included “erratic participation in the labor force and insufficient remuneration.” (Pino) In the movie we see the young boys selling fish on the street, and in all actuality many people were involved in street sales. Also, Bernice can be seen to represent the high number of women who ran the households in the favelas. Also, near the end of the film there are references to the Red Commandos by the gang of children that plan to run the streets after Ze’s death. The Comando Vermelho are real as well, operating in Rio.