103 - City Of God (2002)

City of God tells the story of one man's attempt to escape from the notorious streets of the City of God.

As Rocket grows up he is fortunate to be the brother of a gang member, for he surely would have been mugged and robbed otherwise. After his brother's gang is disbanded after a rushed heist, it becomes apparant that the balance of power is being shifted to a younger 'hood', Li'l Zé.

Forward ten years and Li'l Zé and his best friend - the coolest 'hood' in the City - Benny take over various drug outlets and begin a regime that is relatively peaceful because most of the residents live in fear. Meanwhile, Rocket is growing up relatively innocent but is frustrated at the lack of opportunities open to him as he struggles to fulfil his ambition to become a photographer.
Theatrical Poster

The first striking detail about City of God is its way of telling the story through the use of chapters. Directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund split the story down into the stories surrounding various characters and their point in the timeline. Despite this, the story flows exceptionally well and the momentary freeze frame and flashbacks provide a bit of respite against the otherwise exceptionally raw barrage of violence.

Not that violence in film is a bad thing. As with films from anywhere South of the USA a certain amount of the film is dedicated to a raw, untamed violence (see Amores Perros). Naturally, a film from the gang genre pushes the limit on this in a thoroughly refreshing manner.

Amongst the gun shots and gang showdowns is the story of Rocket's struggle when growing up in a "forgotten" ghetto with very little aid. Despite his problems, there is very little evidence of him complaining about his situation and he just regrets the fact that he might not be able to live his dreams in life. Comparisons can be drawn between him and Li'l Zé due to their lack of female companions, but their methods in trying to draw attention from the opposite sex are but one of the contrasts that help keep the audience's interest.

City of God truly takes you to the streets with its jerky camera movements and from a technical aspect my favourite shot was following the chicken through the crowded, bloodied streets as, like a metaphor for its human counterparts, it flees for its life.

Raw. Ambitious. Highly recommended.