Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
Based on the novel by Paulo Lins
Screenplay by Bráulio Mantovani
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Leandro Firmino
As young boys growing up in the ghettos of Rio de Janiero, two young men choose different paths to adulthood. Rocket (Rodrigues) and Zé (Firmino) have both suffered from the corruption that surrounded them from childhood. Rocket has tried to find a way out, working to learn photography. Zé has turned to life as a drug dealer and gang leader. As the two move forward in life, the contrast between their lifestyle choices continues to become clearer.
This stunning film came from the novel by Paulo Lins, first published in 1997. The story took Lins over ten years to complete, and the finished product is a semi-biographical account of his own childhood. Bráulio Mantovani wrote the screenplay for this movie, which was directed by Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) and Kátia Lund (All the Invisible Children). The film was a commercial and critical success, considered by many critics to be one of the best films of 2002. This film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. The cast features a cast of great actors led by Alexandre Rodrigues (Forbidden to Forbid), Matheus Nachtergaele (Trinta), and Leandro Firmino (Julio Sumiu).
The story behind this film is loosely based on actual events in the life of Paulo Lins. Ultimately, the truth and fiction in the story don’t seem to matter as the world of the City of God, one of Rio de Janiero’s neighborhoods is brought to life. The story doesn’t look away from the brutality, corruption, or desperation that affects the lives of the characters. This ability to look those moments in the face make this much more than a gangster movie, or a sentimental look at growing up in the ghetto. In addition to those moments, the film also allows viewers in to see the hopes and dreams of the people. These two sides of every character make this a tough film at times. Despite all of the gritty moments, this is a wonderfully written movie with great dialogue.
The acting in this one is wonderful, especially considering the number of young actors cast in the film. With Rodrigues, Nachtergaele, and Firmino leading the way, this cast does everything right. The brutality of the story is portrayed more realistically than I expected. The violence and psychological tension placed on the characters keeps this movie going at an amazing pace. The acting in this one is amazing. There are no standout performances, just a great job by the cast as a whole.
Visually, this is a stunning movie that captures the lives of the boys with great camera work. The violent moments of the scene are done without any flare. Instead, these moments are filmed just like the rest of the movie. By normalizing their portrayal, the movie conveys a message about theway violence is viewed by the people in the film. Overall, this is a wonderful movie that definitely earned the Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.
This is a brutal story in many ways. Despite the search for redemption that the story seeks, the overall arc is one of revenge. The action is powerful, and designed to be in your face from the early moments of the film. If you’re a fan of gritty films or foreign dramas, this is one for you. I would also recommend this to anyone who likes films like A Prophet, Fallen Angels, or Gomorrah. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.