City of God – a film review

A chicken stares into the eyes of death, tempting fate. It looks at its equals, submerged, drowned, shot, all at the hands of the merciless. It uses its wit and escapes, cleverly, perhaps too clever for 90s Rio de Janeiro. It flees, causing a chase, a chase that will ultimately end in turmoil, blood and horror.

City of God is perhaps one of the most intellectual film created in the 21st century, it sheds light on the slums of one of the most deprived countries there is. It tells the story of an isolated part of Rio de Janeiro, where the poor people are kept away from the city centre. The slums are ran on fear and desperation, these people are different than the rest of us. As humans we thrive to succeed and accomplish but these people have only one aim in this world; survive.

The richer people of the slums are usually dwelling in the drug business, committing robberies also. Lil’Ze is one of the most infamous drug dealers of the slums and he is a man not to be messed with, causing tarnish and despair wherever he moves, he poisons this society with his presence. The drug industry in the slums is their equivalent to currency, they depend on the drug business for food, shelter and prestige. The whole area is built on drugs. The story connects smaller stories into a bigger picture, it captures the horror of the slums truthfully. This film is definitely one to watch.

One scene protruded especially in my mind, a scene in which Lil’Ze, the main drug dealer in the slums, tortures a group of children and orders one child to choose between two other children to shoot. The scene is so heart wrenching, the children’s portrayal of these characters is so realistic, it is almost difficult to watch.

The story centres on Rocket, a boy who is different from the rest. He doesn’t want to be apart of the hoodlum society, he wants to be a photographer and jumps at the chance when he is offered an assistant job for the newspaper. However, not all is as good as it seems when his secretive pictures of Lil’Ze’s group ends up on the front page of the newspaper. However, they love the idea of their faces being plastered around the slums, so he takes more and more photos of the gang, wielding their guns like trophies.

The film delves into different stories from the 80s and 90s, all having some sort of link to Rocket and eventually the audience can see the bigger picture of the slums, that it is a thriving society with happiness, colour and music but also poisoned with death and murder, with drugs and robbery, with crime.

The chicken does escape, it flees, narrowly escaping death’s wrath. What is out there for it now is unknown, but anywhere must be better than this corrupted society, a society in which death, rape and crime is more normal love, compassion and safety.

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