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Stunning - in every sense of the word
trelloskilos-118 December 2004
Cidade de Deus seems to have a lot of praise on the IMDb boards, and with good reason too. It simply is, in my opinion, one of the best contemporary films ever made.

Based on true events and characters who live in the overlooked and poverty stricken slums in the shadows of Rio de Janiero, where life expectancy doesn't reach the 30's and drug dealers are kings.

The tale of the City of God, and its myriad of characters is told by Rocket, a young man who struggles to make something of his life, other than to wind up another victim of drugs or gang wars.

Not only are the characters in City of God absolutely fascinating, and also very endearing, but also convincingly acted by groups of young and unknown actors. The stoies are well-told, and at times, funny, and at others, brutally shocking.

The cinematic style of the film gives a nod to Tarantino, with some clever time-jumping, freeze-framing, and texts indicating another chapter of the film. In every sense, a bit of a Brazillian "Pulp Fiction" or "Goodfellas", but with its own unique flavour to it.

The City of God is a marvel, and a highly recommended film to watch, but not recommended for the over-sensitive or easily distressed.
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"One of the best films you'll ever see!"--Roger Ebert, does it live up to the hype?
ragin_kagin28 November 2004
The film revolves around the, 'City of God,' a favela (or ghetto) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a horrifying area where drug dealers run the community, and where children killing children is not an uncommon occurrence.

The story begins with the early stages of the City of God (in the 1960's) showing where many of the problems stem from- the extreme poverty, overcrowding etc. Here, in the early stages of the favela, we meet our main characters, along with the supporting cast. The story revolves mainly around two characters living in the favela, Rocket and Lil Ze, and how they take two different paths through life. Rocket's dream is to become a photographer and to escape the City of God while Lil Ze becomes a powerful gang leader and drug dealer.

The film offers an unflinching look at gang life in the City of God, as it follows the favela through three decades; the 60's, 70's and 80's, and shows how violence just spirals into more violence with the disturbingly high amounts of violence in the favela, most involving teenagers and children.

The direction, cinematography, and editing are all Oscar-worthy. The cinematography is some of the best I have ever seen- with a very visceral, jerky feel, very reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan. The editing is very frantic, which makes you feel like you are on the streets of the City of God, and the direction is flawless, seamlessly blending the many elements of the story.

The film was definitely one of the best films I have ever seen. The story, the direction, the cinematography, the editing and the acting all add up to make a excellent movie that I would recommend to all.

10/10, A+

Would also recommend: Bus 174 and Carandiru
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Gangs of Rio
Decko_koji_obecava17 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
If you're unlucky to be born into a socially, economically and racially isolated community that has poverty, crime, drugs and violence as its everyday realities, the odds are stacked incredibly high against you. It literally takes so much effort, strength, struggle and plain ol' good fortune to simply avoid becoming a gangster, let alone do anything more with life. Most who find themselves in the situation described above never even enter this fight and out of those that do - only the rare ones succeed.

"City of God" depicts this conundrum masterfully.

In a Rio slum called Cidade de Deus we meet character after character that has the right idea, knowledge and courage to get out but somehow always ends up being pulled right back into this vicious circle. Becoming a hoodlum in Cidade de Deus isn't just a fringe career option for disenchanted rebels and social outcasts - it's the main industry.

The images of gun toting pre-teen killers are very disturbing and Meirelles uses them relentlessly to underscore just how hopeless and frighteningly predetermined life is for these kids. Many of them can't read or write but already know how to use a gun and kill without remorse. In a particularly harrowing scene, local drug lord Ze Pequeno or Lil' Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora) exacts revenge on a disobedient gang of 9 and 10 year olds by incapacitating two of them and forcing one of his own kid soldiers, as initiation of sorts, to choose which one of the two he wants to kill. Faced with death, one of the kids starts crying crocodile tears; suddenly all the bravado is gone and he is shown for what he truly is - a desperately misdirected infant.

'If only these people had more options....' is the sentiment reinforced with every gruesome event.

Of course, this lifestyle comes a little more naturally to some than to others. Ze Pequeno, for example, from an early age when he was known as Dadinho / Lil' Dice shows a considerable lack of aversion to blood and death. In another aptly choreographed scene so that we don't know what exactly happened until much later, he more than 'holds his own' alongside much older gangsters during a motel stickup.

Also on hand is a colourful palette of characters. From our narrator Buscape / Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) whose ticket out of the slum is his love of photography over to people like laidback Bene / Benny (Philippe Haagensen), followed by Ze's fierce rival Cenoura / Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) or good guy turned bad (although it's not so simple) Mane Galinha / Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge) we see a multidimensional, pulsating, alive community that seems in need of a strong, sustained outside push to finally stop chasing its own tail and get out of this destructive cycle.
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Magnificent, gut-wrenching and utterly compelling
tjcclarke26 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Do not be fooled by the coy charm of the promotional poster. The image of the girl shyly leaning over to kiss the cheek of a bare-backed boy on golden sands drenched in sunlight represents an ideal that many residents of the City of God strive for, but few achieve.

The rewards are all too tangible: The football, the music, the heady culture of samba and carnival joie de vivre is never far away, but escaping from the slums of Rio is a little more complicated than sloping off to the beach for the afternoon. The City of God is a raging maelstrom of violence, drugs and gang warfare, and its inhabitants are indoctrinated in the way of the gun from an early age.

Fernando Meirelles' film (based on a true story) is a breathtakingly convincing interpretation of life in the notorious Rio favela. Using hundreds of real-life slum children to supplement a superb central cast and shooting entirely around the dusty streets and abject poverty of the neighbourhood, Meirelles charts the history of the area through the narration of Rocket, a peaceable soul with journalistic aspirations who is entirely at odds with the mayhem around him.

Rocket explains how the slum was used as a dumping ground for all Rio's undesirables in the 1960s. Despite a population of criminals and ne'er-do-wells, the early part of the film is an homage to plucky underdog cheeriness and community spirit. Rocket's brother is a member of the 'Tender Trio', a dashing group of bandits who go about brandishing pistols and holding up gas trucks like latter day highwaymen.

Despite an elegant notoriety, the Trio's crimes tend to yield less than impressive fiscal reward, so they plan a heist on a motel-cum-knocking shop in an attempt to up the ante. It goes badly wrong. The gang's lily-livered tendencies mean they make a sharp exit at the first sniff of trouble but, unbeknownst to them, their lookout, unhappy with his passive role in proceedings (as bored nine-year-old little brothers are wont to be), strolls into the motel and fires at will, chortling psychotically as each hooker and john crumples to the floor.

The kid in question is L'il Dice, a chubby Arnold-out-of-Diff'rent-Strokes lookalike with an insatiable lust for mayhem. The motel incident marks a shift in emphasis for the City of God and the following years see the slum descend into chaos as L'il Dice (later renamed L'il Ze) builds a narcotics empire by ruthlessly eliminating the competition.

The streets become a recruiting ground for drug dealers and gang lieutenants. Small children (or 'runts' as they are affectionately known) come to see guns and criminal activity as the only viable rungs up the status ladder. 'I smoke, I snort, I've killed and robbed - I'm a man,' one prepubescent boy states defiantly.

The film culminates in all-out war between L'il Ze's bunch of hoodlums and an idealistic group of insubordinates who throng behind the handsome Knockout Ned after he stands up to Ze's cruel regime. Meirelles is careful not to lionise Ned. Turning him into a hero figure would, I suppose, have romanticised a bitter and essentially futile conflict. Rocket, caught in the middle of the hostility highlights the ultimate irony: 'By the end, after years of fighting, nobody could remember how it all started,' he says. The war becomes the way of life in the favela. Being affiliated to one of the gangs gives the street kids credibility and, more importantly, access to weapons. Before long, guns are being handed out like lollipops, and the runts are running about excitedly firing their new 'toys' indiscriminately. It is the ultimate in power without responsibility.

In their breathless exaltations, many reviewers have dubbed City of God 'Brazil's answer to Goodfellas'. It is a comparison that may be sound in terms of structure – Meirelles has certainly mastered Scorsese's canny editing and daring method of chronicling events over long periods of time – but overall this is a different beast. It is more of a Lord of the Flies with AK-47s. The most alarming aspect of all is the shocking lack of parental presence.

This is essential in conveying the choices these street children have (or rather don't have). L'il Ze and his barbaric ilk become all these poor, impressionable little tykes have to aspire to. In short: they don't stand a chance – a fact sharply illustrated in one particularly distressing and almost unwatchable initiation scene where a young gang recruit is required to murder a cornered infant in order to appease his older colleagues.

But Meireilles does not let this base, visceral tone swamp his movie. In Rocket he has an inspirational protagonist – the perfect foil to the madness and despair. His coming of age scenes where he bashfully attempts to flirt with girls and lose his virginity; and the sequence where he and his mate resort to petty crime only to bottle out when their intended victims turn out to be 'way too cool' to rob are the glue that holds the drama together. Without the light relief this would be intense and depressing fare.

As it is, City of God is a triumph of story-telling: Magnificent, gut-wrenching and utterly compelling, it is cinema of the very highest order.

Do not miss it.

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Cidade De Deus
ElChivoDave8 January 2003
The film, directed by Fernando Meirelles, tells the story of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, in an area known as the Cidade De Deus, the City of God. The story is told from the narration of the young photographer, Rocket. The different scenarios of life that make up the wider-story are presented in Pulp Fiction style chapters, complete with on-screen titles for each different story component. The story covers all the facets of the life, charting the growth of several key members of the gangs from childhood through to young adulthood, with their transformation from young hoodlums to local drugs barons. The final parts of the story focus on the battle within the Cidade De Deus between two different groups, when business and personal matters lead to an unavoidable confrontation. And what a confrontation it is, although details will not be given away here. The result is a powerful telling of life based around real-life events.

Martin Scorsese seems to have a heavy influence on the direction of this picture, with many moments looking familiar to fans of the legendary American filmmaker. Close ups, sweeping scene shots, freeze-and-zoom shots, and a frenzied handheld approach are all trademarks that will be recognisably traceable to Scorsese, having been used throughout his career. Many shots remind the viewer of Scorsese's narrative dialogue-camera relationship in Goodfellas, in which the camera was used to brilliant effect to highlight the main points in the script. This technique is used heavily in the first twenty minutes of Cidade De Deus, with the freeze frame trick being used to introduce the story's main characters alongside the dialogue of narrator, Rocket.

Throughout the film one cannot help but watch a scene and think, 'I've seen that in Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or Casino', and this may make some look less favourably on the film's direction. However, it is not fair to consider this 'a Brazilian Goodfellas', as one critic has observed. The story has parallels - the underlying ideas of gangsters, drugs and violence -, the direction is similar, and the story is told with narration, much like Ray Liotta's role in Scorsese's epic. But to regard this film in terms of what styles it repeats or nods it's hat to, is to be very ignorant. Fernando Meirelles, has done a wonderfully hypnotic job of blending the old styles, and bringing them up to date with flashy and sometimes dangerously kinetic direction and editing. Look only to the leaving-party scene in which strobe lighting is used to extraordinary effect, almost suffocating the story below a bombardment on the visual senses. Think of a crossover between the visual energy of the Matrix and the violence of the club scene in Bad Boys.

Cidade De Deus is much more than a directorial assault on the senses. As Raul Walsh said if you don't have a story you have nothing, and many flashy Hollywood films have fallen short in using 'ultra-modern' direction to disguise the fact that no substantial story exists underneath. Cidade De Deus is most brilliant in that it combines directorial and editorial brilliance with a story that is almost second to none in recent times. Only the true greats manage to cater to these two needs of cinema, and this is one that does. The direction is amazing, but not to disguise the story flaws, and the story is brilliant, but does not overwhelm directorial originality. But simply, Cidade De Deus is a perfect film for avid fans of cinematography, and those just in search of two hours of a bloody good story.

I cannot decide yet if I would consider this better than Amores Perros, but it is certainly not inferior. The at-the-same-time stylish and brutal visuals of Amores Perros are replaced by a grittier, more hands on approach to the subject. Whilst in Amores Perros the characters took precedent, in Cidade De Deus the location is as big a character as those who live there. As a result we get a much greater feeling of the environment in which the characters exist, and so it is perhaps easier to empathise, and/or sympathise with them. As the official press synopsis says, Cidade De Deus is a character, but is a place not a person. Amores Perros triumphs in creating relationships between the audience and the characters, as it concentrates for a long time on relatively few people, each of whom we grow to know and ultimately care about, which is important for the emotional impact of the film. Cidade De Deus deals with dozens, even hundreds, of characters, and so it is only a minority that we become attached to. This means that while the film leaves a lasting impact we are not left with the same inquisitiveness about the future for the characters that we meet in Amores Perros. Both films leave open ends, but Cidade De Deus feels closed. Whether you consider this a good or bad thing is a matter for personal choice.

Cidade De Deus is essential viewing, and is cinema at its most brilliant. It will of course feel the wrath of critics who will dwell on the almost unimaginably high body count, but there are always those who will reject violence in the movies. In fact the violence in Cidade De Deus, even the apocalyptic ending, is not as raw and bloody as many will expect. Blood spilling is a rare sight, and the violence rests mostly, but not always, on choreography rather than in your face bloodshed. The result is violence, but it is often so artistic that it looks beautiful rather than deterring. Like Scorsese's Taxi Driver the violence is abhorrent, but admirable from a cinematic perspective.

In short, this is a superb achievement, and is easily one of the best films of the year, and of the decade so far. Like it's predecessors, this is the latest film to come out of South America that indicates the emergence of major new talent in filmmaking. Hollywood beware.
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One of the best unseen foreign films
panjshir_lion30 March 2005
I have seen this movie only recently (2005) and it's easily one of the better foreign films I have seen. Actually, it's probably just about one of the best films I had ever seen.

The characters really make this movie come alive with each of their compelling personalities shining though in the backdrop of oppressive conditions and constant violence. One thing which clearly comes to mind is "Lil' Dice's" ear to ear smile - so vivid and yet so ironic since he personifies pure evil.

The City of God is a world you don't want to visit, it won't be featured on a post card, and it's said to be the city ignored by god himself. This movie makes you feel uncomfortable, puts you on the edge of your seat -- you are right into the middle of the City and you too are caught up in it's violent temptation. More importantly, it's about the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

This movie in effect is fast paced and hard to follow (with the added stress of subtitles over Portuguese), but it's worth it; and in fact really adds to the impetuous and impulsive undertones of the movie. In addition, the quintessential Brazilian music blending into the film like a well made Caprahina makes it feel authentic like the Italian music in the God Father.

You see the flaws of these men played out in an almost fatalistic nature -- hated, greed, futility; and in it all we see ourselves, our own flaws, and our own condition.
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City of God was Incredible
sarahdelore7 June 2003
I knew nothing of this film before I saw it by chance in a rare Pub open screening, but boy was I glad I got the chance to take a look. I was riveted all night - I completely ignored my friends! I thought it was an awesome re-enactment of a true story - powerful, moving, raw, real - and even funny in parts. I walked away afterwards, beaming. It's rare a great film like this is made, especially these days. I gave it ten out of ten. Please see it if you can.
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an exillerating ride through the life of gangsters
jpisani-115 December 2004
I am a big fan of foreign film, because its great to see directors with different points of view than the average American director. City of God is the epitome of a great foreign film. It shows the classic struggle between right and wrong, in a brand new way. The raw directing style, coupled with a great soundtrack makes for a movie which many different kinds of people can enjoy. Weather your a Harvard intellectual or the local idiot, you can enjoy this. The vicious cycle of the gangster lifestyle is portrayed with haunting accuracy. It even forces the audience to sympathize with some of the nastiest thugs in the world. All in all, City of God is one the greatest movies of my time and each time i watch it i enjoy it more than the last.
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Raw and cult film
janicenichols-3256528 September 2018
I agree with the other positive reviews here. I just saw this again after 15 years - still far exceeds anything made today when it comes to struggles of troubled youth in urban slums plagued by drugs and violence. So raw. So shocking to the system. Highly recommended!
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Shocking, Stylish & Brutal Story
ccthemovieman-16 March 2006
Wow, this is one of those different movies - meaning not run-of-mill by any means - and one of those which isn't pleasant to watch but one you might find yourself mesmerized by it.

This also is one of those "based on a true story" films which makes it even more shocking, if its mostly true. The story is of the many young (pre and early-teen) criminals inhabiting an area just outside the big city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It has the feel of a documentary with real-life street kids but is upgraded considerably by fantastic camera-work, some very innovative cinematography. In other words: stylish.

Make no mistake: without that stylish look, the film might be too much of a downer. The street kids are interesting but really brutal, so be prepared. I mean, how often do you see 12-year-old killers portrayed on film? The violence, language and drug use are rough in here and what a sad comment on this social problem in Brazil, a country with a huge problem with these street gangs. Overall, a very tough but fascinating film.
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One of my top 10
michaelgs26 November 2004
I have made an effort to watch all the movies in IMDb's top 100 rated list. As of now, I'm looking for a place where the DVD for Sunset Blvd. is (currently at #30). But this movie is one of the movies I've seen that's on the list. And I find it an amazing film (currently #5 on my top 10 list). What I enjoy about this film is the visual look of the film, but also the way the director puts you in the story. At the end of the film you have become friends with just about everyone in the film, even though some of the characters are very despicable people. The violence hits you in the chest like a load of bricks sometimes, especially when you recognize that many of the kids involved in the violence are right around 10 or 11, but you also realize that this reflects the culture of the slum these kids live in.

Gangster films always seem to make for good dramas (e.g. the Godfather, Goodfellas), where the culture of evil almost always triumphs as the dominant character. This film is no different, but it shows the life of children in places where bribery and corruption reigns supreme. It also shows the bravery of many of these people when even the government won't stick up for them.

If you're thinking of starting to watch some foreign language films, this is a good place to start. It is a classic IMO among films made in languages besides English. I did find that the subtitles in this film were done rather poorly (they displayed on my DVD player at the wrong times and it took a few plays to figure out who was saying what.) But I think the film itself is a truly great film.
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Easily my favourite movie of all time!
chengjeffrey9930 October 2018
Incredible film. Not much to say, yet I could say it all. The film is absolutely splendid in its use of colour, characters and especially music. Though some might complain of the shaky Super 16 footage, it is evidently for effect as the first half (golden age) is filmed with lots of aerials, and smooth, precise shots.

Stunning in every sense
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Tall and Tan and Young and Packing
siriver26 April 2004
'What are you doing, you're just a kid?' "I steal, I kill, I carry a gun, how can I be just a kid? I am a man."

Many who visit Brazil the first time, tend to view Brazilians as lacking serious ambition. They seem to party the night away, and appear to seldom work. The old joke about Brazilians is that they have breakfast at 2:00 in the afternoon.

But such a narrow view does not take into account the fact that while we in America work to live, sweating away for pennies which the government steals at every turn, they in Brazil Live to Live. It is a different kind of living, a life that sambas with the vibrance of the swaying palm and the bounding drum. A life that understands that we are only on this earth for a cup of cafezinho, and we should have fun while we can before the end comes, but quick.

But as the City of God also shows us, Brazilian life is often nasty, brutish and short. A certain degree of anarchy overshadows all the denizens of the film. But Director Fernando Meirelles takes a situation lacking definite boundaries and clear authority, and creates a framework, a structure, that of Gang Rule. The gang-members are not seasoned, old-time criminals like Fredo Corleone or even Tony Montana. Instead, they are a bunch of sweet-faced kids. No one is older than 25, partly because of choice, but mainly because no one lives past this age.

On the surface, in this context, City of God is a coming of age story of two young people, a sort of Brazilian "Angels With Dirty Faces.' One character escapes from the City of God, while the other succumbs to it.

But when one scratches beneath, one finds the film a comment on the morally bankrupt City of God in Rio De Janeiro, and a mirror on Brazil itself. Far away from the party hopping, Travel and Leisure postcard perfect white beaches, is another world, one of marauding bands of displaced children.

The most surprising thing about City of God is its references to American films. Most Brazilian films, as the films of all countries do, owe allegiance to their own particular cultural situation. Brazil owes a cultural debt to Europe (Portugal, Germany, Italy) and Africa. However, the United States has a far more distant cultural relationship to Brazil. That is where City of God triumphs to me an American film goer. It uses the chapter format made famous in Pulp Fiction and more recently, Kill Bill. It uses the familial structure present in Goodfellas. It uses the 'white-suit cool' present in Miami Vice and the Bacardi and cola ads from the preview before this very movie.

The fact that City of God can be subtitled Grand Theft Auto: Sao Paolo, is not a surprise nor a mistake. The film is built like a video game in its use of random acts of violence. But the fluid perfect camera work and editing give way to a film with enormous contradictions. Contradictions as large and as vast as the noble country itself.

Stylistically, the camera work does not conform to its premise as a gangster film. A gangster film never looked this good. It is as if the camera is released in the wide open beaches, and kicked around like one of Ronaldinho's headers. It starts on the sand and moves steadily across. It picks up on the story but then heads into the sun. It then leaves us, the film-viewer, with the most indelible image in years as we see Sonia Braga (A world icon and sex symbol of Brazil)'s niece, sitting on the sun-drenched coast putting her arm around another young boy. The innocence conveyed in this scene is something to behold. It literally takes your breath away.

You see the slamming of different, competing themes. You see the subtlety and tranquility of the beach, smashed into scenes of battered youths dying on city streets. You see a wealth of hypnotic ambiguous images pulled together, much like the very Culture of Brazil itself.
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The Other (Sad) Side of the Wonderful City of Rio de Janeiro
claudio_carvalho1 November 2003
The story begins in the present days, in a barbecue party in the slum of 'Cidade de Deus', with some bandits chasing a chicken. Then, a teenager called Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) tells the story of the Cidade de Deus and the main characters of the movie (Zé Pequeno, Bené, Cenoura etc.), since they were kids.

This movie takes place in Cidade de Deus, a set of buildings originally built in the 60's for poor persons originated from a big flooding in Rio and from some slums. In the 60's, this area was isolated, without any infrastructure. Nowadays, with the construction boom, it is located close to Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepaguá, very valuables zones. Rio de Janeiro City is surrounded by slums, where the situation presented in the film is the reality of thousands and thousands of honest poor persons.

This movie is remarkable: the screenplay, the direction, the performance of the cast, everything works perfectly. The frantic camera looks like a documentary. Today the DVD was released in Brazil, I bought it and I have just watched it with my family.

I really can imagine the reaction of foreigners watching this sad side of Rio de Janeiro. It is strange, because a person who does not live in Rio probably may think that this movie exaggerates in some aspects. However, this is our reality. Lost bullets, robberies, violence is part of our day-by-day life. By the other hand, the same person may think that life in Rio 'stinks', and again it is not true. My city, like a golden coin, has two sides: heads and tails. If you can afford, you have wonderful places to live. But unfortunately, a great part of the population lives in slums, like the ones showed in this movie. The lack of perspective in life of the children, unemployment, ridiculous salaries, lack of education, lack of the faith, all of these factors contributes for the formation of the next generation of drug dealers and bandits. The traffic offers positions to the kids, like showed in this movie. And in the end, even when the 'grown-ups' are arrested or murdered, there is a bunch of children to occupy the spot. A sad social problem, but true. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Cidade de Deus" ("City of God")
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An unsparing portrait of a sociopathic generation
howard.schumann17 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"After the first death, there is no other" - Dylan Thomas

In Brazil there are 120 million people. 50% of them are under 21. 28 million of them live below the lowest standards set by the International Children's Rights Agency of the United Nations. Last year 7,000 boys from 12- to 22-years old died in shootings. This is the background for the disturbing Brazilian film, City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. City of God is a "favela" (government housing project) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where the Brazilian government dumped undesirables and homeless in the 1960s. The film is based on real events described in a novel by Paulo Lins, who lived in the project for thirty years and spent ten years researching the events. It is an unsparing portrait of a sociopathic generation, where manhood is determined by who can kill the most. When a child is ridiculed for being too young to join one of the gangs, he replies, "I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man."

The film traces the favela's history over the span of three decades, showing how its children first became petty thieves, then drug dealers, and finally cold-blooded murderers. To make the film, 2,000 children who lived in the City of God were auditioned and 200 were chosen to go to acting workshops where they improvised the scenes. It is narrated by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), who survived the gang warfare and has since become a photographer for a local newspaper. The picture opens with the sharpening of knives and an adrenalized chase scene involving gangsters, guns, a runaway chicken and Rocket coming face to face with the feared gang leader L'il Zé (Leandro Firmino da Hora). It then flashes back to the more sedate 1960s, where three friends, Goose, Shaggy, and Clipper, known as the "Tender Trio," engage in small time robberies and use their guns only to threaten. The remainder of the film is divided into chapters, each depicting different characters and time periods, each extending the violence until it reaches manic proportions.

One of the most disturbing scenes involves the holdup of a brothel and the murder of its patrons. A nine-year old named Li'l Dice (Douglas Silva) is told to wait outside while the Tender Trio robs the customers. He is told to shoot a window if the police come; instead, however, he goes on a killing spree with a big smile on his face, massacring the patrons in the middle of their lovemaking. The second chapter contains the most gut-wrenching scene of all, when L'il Zé, pursues a gang of "runts" who are disobeying his rules, cornering two of the small boys in an alley. He gives a gun to a member of his gang known as Steak-and-Fries (Darlan Cunha), telling him to prove his manhood by killing one of the smaller boys. The two boys start crying, allowing us to witness the real fear beneath the bravado. Yet the madness and violence keeps building from there.

City of God is essentially a horror story that hits you with a punch to the solar plexus. It is very powerful, but also desensitizing in its high-tech stylization and dizzying special effects. It becomes so fixated at simulating a cocaine high by jumping from one character to another with breakneck speed that, unlike the 1981 Brazilian film Pixoteby Hector Babenco, it often fails to allow full comprehension of the human aspect involved. Yet the film deserves praise for its honesty in tackling an issue most of us would rather avoid. In the process, it has uncovered the natural raw energy of children, with no place to use it except in self-destruction. It leaves me to wonder how this energy could be harnessed against a system that encourages and perpetuates this cycle of violence.
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From the first moment to the last this movie is enthralling!
mungo3931 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first moment of the film shows us a swaggering gangster preparing food somewhere in the Favella of Rio de Janeiro. A knife scrapes across a whetstone, a chicken is plucked, fabulously atmospheric music plays in the background and a second chicken makes a break for his life! A chase ensues, the poor chicken being pursued by a whole gang of hoods, armed to the teeth, and the frenzy stops with our hero (Rocket) being caught between heavily armed Policemen, the chicken and the hoods. Violence seems inevitable, and things look bad for Rocket...

From this point of suspense we re-wind to the sixties. We are introduced to the City Of God itself...the omnipresent character in the movie. The carefully laid out buildings are reminiscent of a battery farm, and we soon find that criminality is evidently 'designed in'. The local youths (including Rocket's brother) are involved in petty crime, and the crime is of little interest or consequence to anyone. In fact we are quickly shown that crime is the only real option to get out of the Favella. Football is the other, but the ball is shot by one of the criminals, highlighting how difficult that route is.

Against this background, Li'l Dice organises an armed raid on a brothel (he must be about 7 or 8). In a fit of pique caused by his being left outside the Motel, he goes into the building after the criminals have left, and shoots everyone dead. He is on his way (via shooting Rocket's brother) to becoming Li'l Ze, the boss of the gangs of the Favella. At the same time Rocket realises that he cannot be a gangster (he's scared of being shot) and talks of becoming a photographer.

But Rocket cannot escape. He tries to work, but earns nothing, and loses his job. He tries crime, but is no good at it. The City drags him back all the time. He does better than others however. Benny (Li'l Ze's partner) is shot at the point when he is preparing to leave, Knockout Ned is dragged into the violence of a turf war, and so on. The slaughter continues with no intervention from the corrupt police, continually destroying the lives of the residents of the City, continually drawing more and more residents into the battle.

Eventually Rocket's life in the Favella itself becomes the key to the exit door. He can take pictures where no other photographer would ever dare to go, and it is this that takes us back to the police, the chicken and the gang! The ensuing, climactic battle sees revenge being taken, the gang leaders arrested, the police corruption, and Li'l Ze being killed. Li'l Ze is killed by the young kids, much as he has killed Rocket's brother, and the cycle of drugs, territory and violence starts again, imprisoning the next generation.

The film is brilliantly shot, linking subject matter and events into an excellent whole, and is complimented by fantastic sound effects creating a really credible (and Brazilian) view of the slums in which the action is set. The shocking reality of the children running the criminal gangs is well handled (Rocket and Li'l Ze's virginity lies in stark contrast to the experiences no adult would expect to ever see) and underscores what is both a touching, and terribly shocking film.
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A Cinematic Feat
mdrohan5 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
City of God, co-directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, is a gripping tale about life in the slums, or favelas, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In particular, the film follows the story of a boy named Rocket, who is determined to not become a street hood like most young boys his age, and instead become a photographer. Another main character the film chronicles is Lil' Ze, a determined youth with the end goal of taking over all of the illegal drug operations and other activities in the favela.

The Brazilian favela is perhaps one of the worst examples of slums in the world. Criminals run rampant, and there is a feeling of lawlessness and apathy from the government towards the areas. As Rocket (who also serves as narrator in the movie, when need be) clearly explains the situation in the opening minutes of the movie: "We came to the city of god hoping to find paradise. Many families were homeless due to flooding, and acts of arson in the slums. The big wigs in government didn't joke around. Homeless? Off to City of God! There was no electricity, paved streets or transportation. But for the rich and powerful, our problems didn't matter. We were too far removed from the picture perfect postcard image of Rio de Janeiro." The directors capture this feeling almost perfectly. Meirelles and Lund take an extremely objective view towards life in the favelas, not playing favorites or trying to draw sympathy for those who live there. The only compassion one feels for the characters is of their human emotions, like Knockout Ned's family being killed, or Rocket losing the girl of his dreams. The main goal of the directors is to report on the conditions and lives of those who live in the favelas, rather than editorialize. There are no scenes of comparison between the favelas and the nice tourist sections of Rio, scenes that would normally be added to draw sympathy from the audience. Based on information known about the favelas, City of God paints an extremely accurate and telling picture of these slums, and even gives greater detail than what they teach in the history books. For example, the story of the runts was interesting and surprising to see that children get caught up in the hood-life so early.

Aside from its historical context and importance, City of God is a great piece of cinema. The actors, mostly non-professionals (in fact, the only star really is Seu Jorge, a famous Brazilian samba artist who made his acting debut in the movie, and has since gone on to have a minor role in 2004's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou), are extremely believable as their characters, giving the movie almost a documentary feel. The cinematography is also stellar. Many scenes appear almost washed out, and very vintage with high contrast, creating a gritty visual landscape. The screenplay of City of God itself has also spoken beyond the Portuguese language barrier. The film has a cult status among college students and those in the know. Many see it as the 21st century's first stellar gang-wars type movie, a la Scarface or Goodfellas.

Overall, City of God is an amazing movie. It has even had effects beyond the screen, provoking the Brazilian government to make social reforms in the favelas after the public became more aware of the conditions through the movie. It is rare for a film these days to have this sort of far reaching effect. I give it a 9 out of 10, only because I felt like it could have been shortened by about twenty minutes or so..
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Unmoved (some small spoilers)
BodyDoubleFilms7 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film has been executed with considerable skill - 10/10 for visual and storytelling style. It is brilliant, expert and flawless in its execution.

Much of the style is stolen from Scorcese movies, as unashamedly as the characters in the film steal money. I don't mind that, as there's plenty of original invention - I particularly liked a scene in the a room where the time fades from one part of the story to the next, with the room's decor changing, but the camera angle was fixed. Although, I'm sure someone will tell me that wasn't original either. The use of freeze-frame with subtitle is tired now, as it's been done by so many Scorcese wanna-bes in the last 15 years.

So this was all very impressive - except I didn't care about any of the characters. I don't know how accurately this is based on the "true story", but if the real characters can dispatch each other as carelessly as their fictional versions, and think of nothing but screwing, stealing or killing, I think they must be rather boring company.

Much of the action focuses on a man called Li'l Ze who, we are shown, kills people and enjoys it, from a very early age. Why he enjoys it is a question not entertained here, and so he comes across as a rather bland killing machine; at one point, shooting a comrade on the spot for talking to him in an annoying way. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a comedy moment - it certainly came across as one.

The one character who isn't obsessed with killing and stealing is the narrator, Busca-Pé, who's ambition is to become a photographer. But he's not really involved in the story, except to be in the right place at the right time to be able to recount it for our benefit. We never see Busca-Pé have much of an effect on events, or express much of an opinion, or even express much emotionally during the constant slaughter. He seems more concerned about losing his virginity than anything else.

The way women are portrayed in this film is questionable. They are either objects of sex, having sex, talking about sex, being raped, or being beaten by their men. At no point do we hear what the women of the City of God express their thoughts or feelings on this hellish world in which they exist.

In fact, nearly all, if not all, of the characters in this movie appear entirely soulless. Are we supposed to sympathise with Li'l Ze's best friend because he doesn't kill people as wantonly as the rest? Am I supposed to feel empathy for this man because he occasionally persuades Li'l Ze to spare someone's life (meanwhile, coming across as a fairly easy-going chap - something of an achievement, considering the countless killings he's been involved in)?

No matter how skillfully this film was made, how well acted, how perfectly constructed, as the body-counted mounted, like the characters in the movie, I didn't really care.
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Explores a world or violence and moral ambiguity rarely depicted on film
Chris_Docker30 January 2003
The most moving moment in a trip I made to Brasil occurred when I visited a community school in the slums (favelas). These children were desperately trying to better themselves – the school (paid for from community and rotararian funds with no government help) was their *only* chance to get out of the cycle of hopelessness and crime. The awful dilemma was that the community and its inhabitants were protected and supported (with no strings attached) by the local drugs and gun running infrastructure. I was safer there than on the streets of Copacabana – no-one would harm a tourist as that might attract police attention (bad for business). One infraction to law and order would mean a warning – the second, death.

City of God looks at the slum area (a slightly less criminalised one than the one I visited) some years not to long ago as it evolved towards this position. The honest struggles of a teenager to break the mould, and the enormous pressures on his less intelligent peers to enter the short lived occupation of gangster. There are many moral challenges the audience is forced to confront, including the many shades of villains that accept a certain degree of criminality in order, at least in part, to do some good in an environment where the worst are very bad indeed and even the police are generally known to be more corrupt than some of the drug-runners.

This is a monumental film ,bravely told and skilfully put together. It opens a world that is largely unseen by the developed West, telling a nail-biting story that accurately reflects generations of children and adults lost to a world we wouldn't wish on anyone. Queasiness at an opening scene where live chickens are beheaded for the cooking pot is soon put into insignificance as we realise the horrific cheapness of human life. This rollercoaster ride of a movie leaves you with very uncomfortable questions about the nature of goodness. Even thinking back to it now brings tears to the corners of my eyes.
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FilmOtaku4 October 2004
There are many films that don't live up to the hype they are afforded, particularly modern day films. 'City of God', directed by Fernando Meirelles is not one of them. From the moment the film began until halfway through the closing credits, my eyes did not leave the television once. Based on a true story, 'City of God' spans two decades and is about rival street gangs in the town Cidade de Deus (City of God), just outside of Rio de Janeiro. The city is one where the government sends the 'unwanted' residents of Rio, so most of the inhabitants are homeless, criminal and/or dirt poor. The story is told through the eyes of Rocket, a young boy who manages to stay on the outer fringe of the gangs, befriending some of the hoods, but not participating. What he discovers he wants to do is become a photojournalist, and begins to take photographs of his neighborhood. When he is in his late teens/early twenties, he goes to work delivering newspapers, when one of his photographs of the slum gang boss is discovered and published without his permission, putting his life in danger, but beginning his professional career.

There are so many reasons why 'City of God' is compelling, but besides its stylish and flashy cinematography and brutally realistic script, the pacing of the film is unrelenting. Not one time did I check the clock to see how far along we were in the film, even though I was on a time constraint. From start to finish, Meirelles gives us a solid yet exciting film. Of course, since I had no idea it was based on real events, 'City of God' became that much more intriguing, especially when, during the closing credits we see actual news footage of some of the primary characters, and we can see how closely the film mirrored actual events.

With a film like 'City of God' it is nearly impossible to convey why it is an excellent film because it is just seamless and well done in so many ways.

All I can do is recommend the film to pretty much anyone who is looking for a good story and a great presentation. See this film. Now. 9/10

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The Best Film Ever Made
moviesleuth220 June 2008
Before anyone says anything, hear me out. According to the IMDb Top 250 list, "The Godfather" reigns supreme as number one, while "City of God," or more appropriately, "Cidade de Deus," is at the number 17 slot. But to compare the two is like comparing an Arnold Schwartzenegger movie to "Crash." They are just too different. But for me, while Francis Ford Coppolla's 1972 film is rightly considered a masterpiece, "City of God" is more memorable and packs a bigger punch. That, and "The Godfather" has had 30 more years under its belt to gather its legendary status. And it's in English (which, sadly, makes a lot of difference).

Now, "City of God." What a rush! Fernando Meirelles's masterpiece is a film to behold. Many critics have described films as "explosive" for the punch they pack, and/or the unflinching reality of the subject matter. But there has been no film I have ever seen that can match "City of God" for energy. It has so much energy that instead of unfolding, it throws itself at you all at once, leaving everything else to be done afterwards. The actors don't act; they don't have time. They just...are. Everything is done to such an extreme, it's surprising that Meirelles manages to make none of it sensationalistic or exploitative.

Some people will tell you that this film is the chronicle of two drug lords. While there is some truth in that, the plot, if one could call it that, is better described as the chronicle of the "City of God" itself. Characters float in and out, with the "out" part frequently involving a bang (or more likely, a series of them). The characters are given background only if and when they are needed.

Like I said, there's really no time to develop subtly-nuanced performances. The film moves with such breakneck energy that to do so would only slow it down. There are only a few characters that really matter. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is our window into the hellish slums. The result isn't voyeuristic, instead Rocket is more like a guide (albeit with only the narration addressing the audience). He's a normal teen, with interests in girls (particularly Angelica (Alice Braga)), sex, and aspirations to be a photographer. But his main goal is simply to survive each day. Also of note is Li' Ze, who we see growing up with a taste for violence as a kid (kids shoot and kill people just as frequently, if not more so, than adults). His increasingly drug-addled brain and his ambition makes him more frightening by the minute. The only one who keeps him grounded and (relatively) under control is Benny (Phellipe Haagensen), the "coolest hood in the City of God." There's some truth in that statement, as spoken by Rocket. He's the shed of brightness in this hellish city (though he's no goody-two-shoes). Finally, there is Lil Ze's rival, Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge), who has the film's most notable character changes.

But this is Fernando Meirelles movie. He throws in everything he can think of, and then some. References to Tarantino are abound, and there are probably more, but Meirelles takes the energy level up so high that there's no room for even a "please" or "thank you." Desaturated colors. A constantly moving camera. Loud noises. An upbeat soundtrack (which is the film's saving grace from becoming too grim). It's all here.

People may not agree with me that this is the best film ever made, and that's okay. I respect that. But make no mistake, it's an unforgettable 130 minutes.
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A Mindblowing Masterpiece!
phoenix-ks4 May 2005
This movie is absolutely amazing! It is a cinematic tour de force. It is undoubtedly one of the top ten best movies ever made. Comparable to American masterpieces such as Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction. But it is its own unique film.

It is based on a true story of one boys desperate attempt to survive and escape the city of god (the slums of Rio de Janeiro) a truly brutal and violent place. A place where murders, holdups, drugs, and criminals are commonplace.

This film announces the presences of a truly talented filmmaker, Fernando Meirelles. He directs this film with a ferocious, frantic, intensity perfectly merging every aspect of the film. He uses many different filming tricks from split screen to freeze frame. Each one is used at exactly the right time for the exact right reasons.

All of this combines to make an unforgettably perfect cinematic masterpiece that i highly recommend. 10/10 A++
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Of how a chicken escaped alive
pedrofjmk10 March 2005
Let's imagine for a split-second that you have not read a line about 'City of God' as you click Play in your remote. As the footage starts, the camera snaps back and forth in a frenzy, people dance the samba, a party is on the make, a poor chicken watches as her mates become chicken wings. And hence we get to the big chicken run. It's the most brilliant scene of the whole movie - in fact, the whole movie revolves around it. Around this frantic scene and the shooting that follows and that sadly shows the reality of thousands of Brazilians in Rio and elsewhere. There is no space in Paulo Lins' novel for the idle hedonism of 'Capitães da Areia', the renown Jorge Amado classic that tells us the story of a junior delinquent gang in the streets of Salvador in Bahia. 'City of God' simply has no space. Not even space for the viewer. From the first scene onwards, you are permanently reminded that you aren't but a viewer, that you are outside, that you have absolutely not the slightest-faintest-slimmest idea of what it feels like to be inside. The narrative structure is a strike of genius in that sense. Not that it was a cutting-edge idea - it has been done time and time again. But the manipulation of at least three hand-held cameras, the constant sound of samba and the relapses of the story, together with the sheer vivacity of the original dialogues (mind you, I do mean the original, extremely nuanced Rio favela-slang Portuguese dialogues!!) make the movie possible to be watched without post-traumatic-stress. You are outside, and you know it. Your whole body is either stiff or numb, uncomfortable in any case. That strange butterfly-cold-revolving sensation in your stomach reminds you that you are not comfortable. The way you breathe (or don't)reminds you that you're not comfortable. The way you bite your knuckles or shake your head in disbelief, perhaps the dampness of your eyes when that young child cries in fear of being shot dead reminds you that you are not comfortable, that this is not your world. Sometimes, in your deep discomfort, your thoughts will go ashtray, only to be rescued back by the next still, the next title, the nest flashback that requires your attention. That is the stylistic exercise that achieves the objective of keeping you focused and in your seat. That is the role Meirelles responsibly takes as film director.

The rooftops of 'City of God' in the '60s remind me of Soweto. The street scenes in the '60s remind me of Soweto, Jo'burg today. Or Gaza. Or Bagdad. Or Monrovia. Or Mogadiscio. Or Rio, for the matter. See a pattern here? There is no innocence any more. There is simply the ignorance that another life is possible outside those impossible invisible walls of the favela. There is crime and punishment, cause and consequence, shoot and shoot-back, or better yet, shoot-before. It could be a war anywhere in the world. Yet, it's the city you choose to go to for holiday. You'll be dazzled after you watch these 130 minutes. Meirelles allows you the luxury of enjoying the story, despite the violence contained in it. But do stop to think about it for a minute afterwards. Think: how many of those real-life actors, casted in a real-life favela in Rio do you believe had a similar fate since 2002? Think again. This is the harsh reality. Imagine this was a documentary - you would need counseling after watching. But you do need to know what lies behind Morro-do-Pão-de-Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Some wars happen in the gut of our society - in Rio as in Paris or L.A., and 'City of God' is there to remind you.

And, well, contrarily to what you thought, the worse in Rio is not that your camera gets knacked. Now you've learned that you'll never see the worse, lucky you... F.y.i., the chicken escapes alive (clever chicken!).
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Excellent and violent film based on real events
ma-cortes18 October 2004
The movie deals about children and adolescent factions in the impoverished Favelas , Rio Janeiro , for 1960 and 1970 years . And it centers upon a teen who tries to leave that world by means of the photography . The final confrontation among the motley gangs for Favelas control is pretty violent and bloody .

In the motion picture there are shocks , emotion , sex , violence and a little bit of social criticism . Runtime film is overlong but it's fast moving and that's why it isn't boring but it results to be enjoyable . The picture is similar other film from 1981 : ¨Pixote¨ (Hector Babenco) that was likeness in atmosphere and showing the delinquent vagrants . It's a thought-provoking and clever studio of juvenile paupers and unflinching remark at the underbelly of Rio Janeiro city , where teens and children become into burglars and assassins . The movie was not actually shot in Cidade De Deus slum as it was too dangerous ; it was shot in a neighbouring , less dangerous área . Principal actors' interpretation is outstanding , in spite of most are newcomers . All of the amateur actors were recruited from Favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro, and a couple of them actually lived in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) itself . Fernando Mereilles direction is awesome and stylish , he even has been hired by Hollywood to make lavish films . The motion picture had an Oscar nomination and obtained a lot of success at box office around the world . The movie is produced by Walter Salles , the best director and production manager from Brazil .

The film is rated ¨R¨ for crude murders and sex and isn't apt for boys , only for old people (+18) , neither squeamish. The flick will appeal to social drama and thoughtful films lovers . Rating: 7/10. Well worth watching.
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