The cinema of every country reflects its own culture subconsciously. But every once a while, a filmmaker makes a movie that ends up being the defining thing about a culture. Cidade de Deus (City of God) is that movie for Brazil.
Adapted from a 1997 novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, City of God translates on screen the murky, filthy and gruesome crime underbelly of Rio de Janiero between the ’60s and the ‘80s, seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Buscape or Rocket. Trying his best to keep away from the life of crime and corruption, which all his friends seem to have so easily succumbed to, he watches silently, and helplessly, as Rio de Janiero disintegrates in front of him.
The story is as much about Rocket and his endeavour to follow his passions of photography and live an honest, uncorrupted life, as it is about the rivalry and gang war between the drug lord Li’l Ze and criminal Mane Galinha or Knockout Ned – one which became the identity of the capital city for the time it lasted.
With its inventive, nonlinear narrative style, City of God rivals the very best of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, but with drama so gritty and real, it makes Francis Ford Coppola proud. It’s not often a movie exceeds its own scope and surpasses every expectation – but that’s exactly what the movie directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katie Lund does.
The masterpiece is, in equal parts, a disturbing, compelling and hard-hitting origin story of how the City of God came to be, as well as a rollicking, stylized and ridiculously entertaining flick about drugs, power and lots of guns. And what makes it a notch more interesting than the other greats of World Cinema is the simple fact that this convoluted, shocking and fascinating story went down exactly so in real life as well!
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Leandro Firmino
Written By: Paulo Lins, Bráulio Mantovani
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Note: This recommendation first appeared in MTV Noise Factory, December 2011 issue
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