City of God (Cidade de Deus)

Cidade de Deus

The kids are, most certainly, not all right

dir: Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund


What a fantastic, fiery, raucous flick. Brazilian cinema has come into its own and is now its own exportable genre because of City of God. I’m sure they were making films for decades before this, but this flick blew a lot of people away and made them start noticing a great kind of cinema from a previously unheard region.

Since then, the Brazilian flicks that have been appearing at my local arthouse cinema and on the shelves of my local vid store are all united by common threads: they’re based on true stories, they centre around crime and poverty, and they’re about larger than life characters living in cities so extreme as to almost seem like science fiction. But they exist. They’re real. The slum called City of God, or Cidade de Deus in their native Portuguese tongue, is a real place. They didn’t have to build sets, hire extras and dress them in costumes, or make anything up.

Of course this isn’t a documentary, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a pretty real film about a real life lived by millions in the most prosperous country in Latin America.

The majority of the actors in the flick are people who grew up in these government-created slums they call favelas. I guess it probably doesn’t seem as freaky to them to have eight year olds running around with guns killing people and running the drug trade. It does to me. It makes you marvel at the differences in lives lived according to geography.

For all the social commentary and significance you could read into the enterprise, and assume would heavy-handedly have to be there, this isn’t that kind of flick. It has a fast-paced narrative covering three decades in the lives of many of the denizens of the City of God, seen through the eyes of one guy who lived through it all.