The City of God

City of God was a movie that showed the corruption in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The movie centered on Rocket and his stories of the gang violence overtaking his city, the City of God. Though the movie does a marvelous job portraying the graphic and, at times, pointless violence, as Stephan Hart points out, much of the story is a fictionalized version of real people and events.

In City of God, Rocket makes the statement “Run and you’ll never escape. Fight and you’ll never survive.” This seems to be accurate throughout the movie. All the stories are interconnected and all the characters relate back to each other in a convoluted series of events. None of these characters seem to be able to escape their roots. One example is when right before Benny leaves to start over, he is shot. It is not until the end that Rocket frees himself and becomes a professional photographer. This success, in a way, is hypocritical. Rocket tries his whole life to escape from his past, but if it was not for his upbringing he would not have become a famous photographer. The flashbacks in the movie show the story unfolding for the audience. They show how much story, history, and heartache was compacted into those few moments when the gangs had their shootout. Hart commends the director for showing how the past reconnects with the present. Stephan Hart writes that the movie focuses on the subaltern class and the influences of their detrimental environment. Several factors, such as, governmental and police influence sustain and maintain the conditions these people live in.  The manipulation of these powers rendered the citizens helpless and forces them to turn to thugs and drug dealers to keep the peace and to keep violence off the streets.

Julio César Pino writes that manufactures benefited from keeping the citizens of Rio de Janeiro in destitute living due to the cheap labor. The employment opportunities seem to be structured to exploit certain classes and profit those who control the means of production. He divides the ghettos into Marxist categories. The sub-proletarian category is the strongest represented in the movie. These people are defined as working in unstable environments in the informal sector. This is reflected in the movie when Rocket tries to get a legal, stable job. He does honest labor, but when hoodlums rob the store, the manger accuses him of association with the gang and fires him. Rocket was forced to try and look elsewhere for income. However, he was lucky and did not turn to crime for long. Many people in his position did and it cost them their lives and/or their loved ones lives. Pino stresses the point that these citizens were victims of a corrupt system which was essential to Brazilian capitalism. Employers wanted cheap labor and would continue to oppress the citizens of the slums until it, as Stephan Hart states, affected them, or their clients, the “middle class”.

Ney dos Santos Oliviera writes about race and class and how social mobilization is affected by both these combined. Neither race nor class separately cause a person or a community to remain in their social class or social situation. If a community wants change, all citizens must make the effort to change it. In City of God, the gang violence only started receiving the attention it deserved when the media was able to access the story. The cops had taken advantage of the media’s disability to cover the violence as a way to profit off the fear of the citizens. Rocket exposes the corruption and it is presumed that the local law-enforcement would start truly trying to rid the streets of violence to cover the humiliation of their actions.