Cidade de Deus (City of God)

Cidade De Deus  (City of God) directed by Fernando Meirelles and released in 2002, depicts the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during the 1960-1970s. This film shows the struggle for power within these slum cities. Meirelles constructs a very believable replication of the physical conditions found in actual Brazillian favelas. Controlled by drug lords, the tennants of City of God had to endure highly volatile conditions interspersed with moments of relative calm. These moments were represented in the film as great crowds gather for dance parties and in another  scene where couples are out for diner and a voice over explains that they were only able to enjoy a night out because of the recent calm brought on by Lil Ze’s tight control. Though the film focused on the drug racketeering that dominated the City of God, throughout are images of the many other means of work that faveladors would obtain in order to survive. Favelados who did survive would help to strengthen the permanence of these impromptu communities and further establish them as an integral part of the cities they thronged to.  

The opening scene of the movie shows the shabby constructs of the shacks that lined the unpaved roads of City of God. As noted in Julio Pino’s article Labor in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, 1940-1969, Favelas like these came about as rural workers fled the intolerable working conditions of farming in search of better jobs in the metropolitian areas. Coming to the city with little or no money, housing was an immediate quadary and out of necessity the tennants of these favelas constructed primitive shacks out of whatever scraps could be found. According to Pino’s article, the labor movement from rural to urban areas started around 1929 but by 1960 “the number of favelas in Rio rose to 147 with a population of 335,063″ (22).Pinos research shows that the majority of able bodied workers who found work typically found temporary jobs that paid below the minimum wage. The majority of jobs were found in domestic work for women or construction work for men.Very few would have had jobs like the one portrayed in the film of Goose and Rocket’s father being a fisherman where he actually worked for him self which was called biscate, or someone who had “full-time self-employment in petty commodity production and trade” (Pino 19). With few options, it is realistic that the young kids who became self proclaimed hoods would look to any available way to make money and secure respect among the community.

The policing of City of God was almost non-existant. This live-and-let-live attitude is possible based on the article by Ney do Santos Oliveira’s Favelas and Ghettos, Race and Class in Rio deJaneiro and New York City which in summary conceals that economically the whole city benefited from the cheap labor provided by the favelados and that little governmental solutions were found to help the poverty of these cities.  The film demonstrated that the police would only interviene when the hoods began to gain the attention of the media. It is easy to speculate a number of reasons for this level of involvement of the police but on a whole it seems that if the favelas went on completely unchecked, their chaos could have ripple effects into the social and economy stability of the whole of Rio de Janeiro.