Readers’ Recommendations: “City of God”

city_of_godHey everyone, it’s Friday, time for another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ fogsmoviereviews@gmail.com or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate!
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Mark WalkerThis time up, our recommendation comes from Mark Walker of Marked Movies. He’s recommended the 2002 Brazilian film “City of God”. “City of God” is a highly acclaimed film that I’ve heard a lot about, but haven’t had a chance to see yet, so I’m excited to check out this recommendation!
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Click through to check out what we had to say!
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My questions in bold. Mark’s answers below!

Q1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?

I remember when I got it on DVD shortly after it’s release. I was attempting to go through as many foreign language film’s as I could and this film was one of the best of very long list.

Q2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?

It’s one that I’d recommend to most people who enjoy world cinema. It’s gritty realism has been likened to many US movies and stylistic directors like Scorsese and Tarantino. Anyone who’s a fan of them (and most are) should see this film. I love its rawness and unflinching depiction of the dangerous Brazilian favela’s.

Q3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?

I don’t think the movie is under appreciated. Some may not have crossed its path yet but those that have, often speak very highly of it. On the Imdb’s Top 250 list, it stands at a very respectable No:21. None too shabby if you ask me.

Q4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?

It doesn’t really surprise me that some people have yet to see it. This is often the case with foreign movies, but when you started your Readers Recommendation series I definitely thought that you should check this one out.

Q5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )

Unfortunately, I haven’t written about it. (which is a shame, as a bit of linkage is always welcome). I include the film in my personal Top Ten and it’s the only film on that list that I haven’t reviewed yet. I must remedy that.

Thanks Mark! My Review is below!

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Set in a slum town on the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro, “City of God” paints a picture of an impoverished world, riddled with crime. A ruthless gang leader named Lil-Z rules with an iron fist, selling drugs, eliminating rivals, and conscripting child soldiers. When a feud breaks out over a woman Lil-Z is interested in, City of God is turned into a war zone in which no one is safe.

Rocket, the film’s narrator, grows up as the younger brother of a hoodlum. He reflects back upon the story of how his older brother’s gang was torn apart after the bloody robbery of a motel. Eventually, it led to his brother’s death. All Rocket wants to do now is to become a photographer and escape the slums. Fortunately for his, the hellish environs he lives in are rife with big story photography opportunities.

Given the violent nature of his surroundings, however, will Rocket be able to survive and make his way out? Or will he become yet another innocent casualty of City of God?

“City of God” is an incredible film. Directed with an abundance of style by Fernando Meirelles, it takes an unflinching look at a lawless, dog eat dog world with little hope or opportunity, and an excess of violence. Drugs, robberies, rapes, arms dealing, gang warfare, children killing children… the world of “City of God” is like a real life Lord of the Flies heightened by guns and drugs. It’s a harrowing movie that doesn’t flinch from showing any of the butchery and brutality. In Meirelles’ hands, though, it becomes an intoxicating watch. Utilizing a hand-held guerilla style approach, Meirelles immerses the viewer in the frenetic, dangerous world and doesn’t let them up to breathe.

Many of the actors were actual residents of Brazilian favelas (shanty towns). That, combined with the fact that the novel the film was based on was inspired by true events, gives the film a frighteningly authentic feel. It was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2004: Best Cinematography, Best Directing, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was highly deserving of each nomination it received.

“City of God” is a kinetic film full of danger and crime and the cost that it takes on the innocent. It has an underlying “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind” feel to it on a grand scale. It’s an epic story set in a world of savagery that few of us here can relate to. It truly is a powerful, unforgettable film.

A++

Daniel Fogarty

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50 thoughts on “Readers’ Recommendations: “City of God”

    • Yeah, man, it was pretty bad ass. Shocking that some parts of the world actually live like that. 8O

      You’ve definitely thrown two strikes in this series, no doubt about it. Looking forward to settling on another one one of these days! :D

      • You have fine taste, sir! But then I already knew that. It’s not often we disagree and that’s why I threw those two your way. I’ll have another think on another few that I’d like to hear your thoughts on. I enjoy these reader recommendations, man. It’s good bouncing some film’s off you.

  1. Great to see such a high rating to the movie I love dearly!! As Mark said, almost everyone who has seen it comes praising it. It’s not only one of my favorites but also one of the greats that World Cinema has to offer.

    • Couldn’t agree more with you here. It truly is one of the best of world cinema. Like I metion in Fogs’ questions above; I include it in my personal Top Ten and it’s there for very good reason. :-)

    • Yeah, I have to say I’m woefully underexposed to foreign films, but this is undoubtedly a great one. I’m glad Mark brought it up for this series… Its hard to imagine anyone coming away from it not liking it, unless they’re upset by the subject matter, which is pretty intense… 8O

  2. Great movie. There was a follow up TV series “City of Men” produced by Meirelles and a film “City of Men” set 5 years later with the same boys. Both were incredibly interesting. Only a few places are like the “favelas”, the Kasbah in Morocco and the hills above Hong Kong. A maze of people and activity. I’m sure many have felt if they went in there, they’d never get out. The gangs act with impunity. That’s why Rocket can take their pictures. They know the police are afraid to enter. All this will be subject again soon, how that the Olympics are coming there. Brazil is truly the other America!

    • Thankfully, the America I know is nothing like that. Well, except the drugs, of course. LOL Even our worst cities are tame compared to this flick!

      I saw the City of Men follow up stuff, but I was wondering if it was worthy of the original or not… you’d say yes? I’ll have to check it out if I can.

      • You saw the “City of Men” or you saw mention of it?
        It’s a half-step down but still retains the “livin’ it” feel. Go for it.

    • I’ve seen both the tv series and the film “City of Men”, Ray. I liked them, especially the tv one but they still disappointed me a little. They just didn’t quite capture the intensity of this film. Decent follow-up’s but with the sheer power of “City of God” was always going to be hard to replicate.

      Fogs, check out “Elite Squad” and it’s sequel “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”. These are two film’s in a similar style but take it from the point of view of the Bopa (the police) that try to infiltrate these favelas. Great stuff once again.

  3. For some reason I’ve always gotten this movie confused with “City of Lost Children”… which is also an excellent movie, but very different. Or maybe “Dark City”, which is also different, and good.

  4. Definitely one of my favorite films of the 2000s. I was shocked in what I saw. Not just in the violence but how uncompromising it was including that scene where a kid is forced to kill another little kid. Still the best thing Fernando Meirelles has done so far though “The Constant Gardener” was a good follow-up but everything else after that… meh…

    • Yeah, I couldn’t believe how brutal that was. Still, if that’s life there, kudos to him for having the balls to show it! 8O

      It definitely was a shocking movie, but an excellent one as well. ;)

    • That scene of the Kid forced to shoot another kid is one the most defining and brutal scenes in the entire film. If most people has to remembe at least one scene, I’m sure it’d be that.

      I’ve found Merielles’ follow-up movies pretty tame and lacklustre in comparison to this. The Constant Gardener was okay but nothing special for me, and Blindness was a great concept that he never explored to it’s full capacity. I do await another great movie from him, though, and I’m sure it’ll happen eventually.

  5. Yeah, I’m amazed you missed this one too Fogs, I have it in my Top Ten of the decade, a wonderful masterpiece.

    As to “City of Men”, I didn’t the TV show yet, but I did see the movie “City of Men”, which I think is a very abbreviated version of the show, or it might have been a long pilot, I’m not sure. I wasn’t that big a fan of it. It’s not done by Meirelles, and it dives more into the personal relationship between the character, who actually, from I remembered, they don’t have much relation to the original. If I remember correctly, it’s more of a look at the area, in modern-day, so it’s directed differently, the stories are told differently. It might work better as a series,- maybe everything will lack compared to “City of God”, but-eh I think I’d try to wait the Brazilian series, and not the movie sequel “City of Men”, which, yeah, was somewhat forgettable for me.

    • Ok. Receiving less than stellar input on City of Men… I wont be any rush to seek it out then. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice.

      Meanwhile, Of course I had heard of this movie, and it was on my to see list, but I typically prioritize the American films I haven’t seen (which are numerous). That’s why this series is great. Mark made a nice call…

      • Wow, that’s funny. I prioritize foreign films over Americans, most of the time. Yeah, “City of Men”, the movie, wasn’t big on it. I imagine the series is probably good, but, I don’t know for sure. I don’t prioritize foreign TV series often. Well, occasionally, if they’re British, I will though.

  6. The thing I love the most about this movie is that underneath all this unflinching violence and ruthless killing is a coming-of-age story, of how one find his place in a harsh world and also, how he finally gets to lose his virginity :P
    By the way, Frogs, if you would like to check out some foreign movies, I recommend La Dolce Vita (if you haven’t watched it). It’s my favorite foreign movie, a really good one in my opinion.

    • LOL. Frogs is a typo, right? 8O

      I haven’t seen La Dolce Vita, actually. Would you like to represent it for this series? I’d be happy to check it out…

      And you’re right, I’m glad we were given Rocket and his story, otherwise this would have been an extremely bleak movie. :(

  7. Great film choice. And really glad that you both love it. I still remember seeing it at the cinema for the first time… it just totally blew me away. Great write-ups.

    • Thanks Mark! Yeah, it blew me away, too. It’s a crazy movie, man. Very, very violent and frightening due to the realism. But hey, I guess that’s the truth of the world in some parts 8O

  8. I’m glad you loved it man. I felt the same way. Its gruesome, but also high-octane. The way it interweaves its large cast of characters makes me think of The Wire as well, and I love that kind of stuff.

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