“In the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s, two young men choose different paths. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is a budding photographer who documents the increasing drug-related violence of his neighbourhood. José ‘Zé’ Pequeno (Leandro Firmino da Hora) is an ambitious drug dealer who uses Rocket and his photos as a way to increase his fame as a turf war erupts with his rival, ‘Knockout Ned’ (Seu Jorge). The film was shot on location in Rio’s poorest neighbourhoods.”
This is such a good story. It’s engaging, the acting is great and everything about it works so well together. City of God is involved with its characters by doing everything from documenting their life stories, the first person narration, capturing the humanity of all the characters.
City of God’s introduction is amazing – where we watch a scene before the narrator takes us ‘back to the beginning’ to then tell the story in a linear fashion. It sets the tone of the movie from the very beginning with a fast pace, upbeat music and a sort of chaos and dissonance that is present throughout the entire movie because of its heavy criminal involvement.
It’s narrated by a young man called Rocket and tracks his and others lives from their childhood to their young adult years. He makes it clear the conditions they are in and types of lives that the people living in the City of God have. And the fact that this movie also is a coming of age story too just makes all the characters choices in life to lead them down the paths they choose for themselves all the more easy to follow, and be interested in. Yet among all that is happening, the narrator also manages to explain the rules, ideas and the community that the City of God is – making it very easy to understand what is happening, and to be interested in the characters and story line.
This is very helpful since there’s quite a bit of action too with all the gang happenings, turf wars and more violent and darker themes that are covered in this film. There’s a lot happening, a lot of characters, and just a lot to watch on screen. As a coming of age film too, there’s then even more that happens with relationships, friendships and personal growth. The difference between seeing the varying approaches the gangsters took to life and their gangs too, and then the also very opposing path in life that the narrator took for himself was very interesting – and yet it all connected everyone together to everything very well. It creates the imagery of a sort of dysfunctional but interesting and heavily interconnected community, where children are the ones that learn how to control the streets.
I really enjoyed watching this film. It was interesting to watch throughout the entire thing, the characters were easy to be invested in and being able to watch the children aspire and become criminals was something I hadn’t really watched before. The narrator was very clear though, making it easy to follow what was happening with the different characters and understanding the ways that the gangs in the City of God operate.