Film-Forward Review: CITY OF GOD

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CITY OF GOD
Directed by: Kátia Lund & Fernando Meirelles.
Produced by: Andrea Barata Ribeiro & Mauricio Andrade Ramos.
Written by: Bráulio Mantovani, Based on the novel by Paulo Lins.
Director of Photography: César Charlone.
Edited by: Daniel Rezende.
Music by: Ed Cortês & Antonio Pinto.
Released by: Miramax.
Language: Portuguese.
Country of Origin: Brazil/France/USA. 130 min. Rated: R.
With: Matheus Nachtergaele & Leandro Firmino da Hora.
DVD Features: Documentary, News from a Personal War. English, Spanish & French subtitles.

A sense of impending danger permeates this visceral and brutal tale of crime and retribution. Based on a true story, teenager Rocket narrates his coming-of-age story about growing up in the City of God, a Rio de Janeiro slum, and breaking free from poverty. His friend Liíl Dice is determined to join the teenage gang Tender Trio, but only starts out as a lookout at a brothel robbery. Years later in the '70s, Liíl Dice renames himself Liíl Zi and takes over the slumís drug trade by force and intimidation, becoming its kingpin. Meanwhile, Rocket puts his life at risk by photographing the turf war for a newspaper. The actors, mostly children and young adults, are at ease in front of the camera and appear to be improvising. In a nod to Scorseseís Casino, where a montage sequence shows how mob money fills everyoneís pockets, City succinctly describes the local drug network and its hierarchy. The film is also a homage to the '70s blaxpoitation films, a Brazilian Scarface with a touch of Angels with Dirty Faces, and has several well-directed set pieces: the opening chase sequence with a chicken on the loose escaping the cooking pot, and a neighborhood dance party, featuring the song ďKung Fu Fighting,Ē where all hell breaks loose. At a full-throttle pace and exciting from beginning to end, directors Lund and Meirrelles grab hold of your attention and donít let go. Kent Turner
April 24, 2003

DVD Extras: Using interviews and news footage, this documentary shows the vicious cycle of slum life in Rio de Janeiro, where people are forced to choose between a life doomed to poverty or dealing drugs. The filmmakers did an excellent job of speaking to people from each side of the issue, including a surprisingly honest police official, as well as high level drug dealers. Even those who try to stay outside the fray are often caught between a corrupt police force, and a government that doesnít seem to care. There are also some disturbing images, such as real-life footage of confrontations against the police, and a comparison between the policeís firearm capabilities versus that of the drug dealers, both of which have enough military equipment for a small war. Michael Fisher
June 23, 2004

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