The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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‘City’ survives

Independent film details slums of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro
 City survives
‘City’ survives

‘City’ survives

“City of God” is an incendiary film. It explodes from the screen like a bullet from a barrel.

Based in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, around events that actually took place, the story follows a group of friends through their early, and sometimes devastatingly short, lives.

Rocket, Benny, Lil’ Dice and others grow up together on the outskirts of Brazilian society, where the government has shoveled them. Here, they begin immersing themselves at varying speeds and levels of success into the only life that seems to offer them a ticket out – the life of crime.

Simple theft evolves into drug dealing, which in turn evolves into murder and eventually all-out gang warfare.

Director Fernando Meirelles, who has an extensive number of Brazilian commercials to his name, has based his first feature film on a fact-based novel written by Paulo Lins, a former resident of the City of God. Meirelles shot the film in the slums using kids who actually lived there, increasing the films realism to a staggering level.

The film bobs and weaves like the memoirs of a man remembering the events of his life as he communicates them.

Details resurface, timelines repeat many times to show different angles from every character, and loose ends suddenly connect in unexpected ways. Style is painted up and down every shot, but it always serves a purpose.

The story spans nearly three decades, following the development of the slums from wasteland to battlefield, the characters from boys to men.

Life is cheap and expendable in the City of God, providing a constant source of young criminals, and the image of gun-toting 10-year-olds is just as devastating in the film’s final frames as it is in its beginning.

If this all sounds irrevocably bleak, it isn’t, as the joys of the characters’ youthful discoveries are always close at hand, albeit one step away from tragedy.

The film burns like a constant cycle of drugs: uppers and downers, narcotics and hallucinogens. Dizzying highs are followed by crushing lows, heaven chased by hell.

“City of God” is that rare film that combines dazzling visual style with important moral questions, top-notch acting and a devastating, complex story.

It is, in a sense, a film about a place where humans function on almost primal levels of existence, where they have to kill or be killed, where they feel every emotion as deeply as it can be felt, and therefore live life on the edge of exhilaration and despair.

‘City’ survives

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