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Genre: Drama
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Rating: M18 (Strong Violence. Drug Content)

Year Made: 2002




- Trailer
- Highlights
- Cast & Crew Interviews



Languages: Portuguese
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Sound: Stereo
Running Time: 2 hrs 4 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Axis Music
Official Website:




The main character in CITY OF GOD is not a person but a place. Cidade de Deus is a Brazilian housing project born in the 1960s that - as organized crime and drugs gained a foothold - became one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro. For its improvised residents, laws are made not by the government but by the teenage drug barons and gang leaders who rule using fear. The narrator Rocket, a poor black kid too scared to become an outlaw but also too smart for an underpaid job, discovers he can see reality with a different eye: the eye of a camera. Then there is Lil Dice, a kid the same age who already dreams of being Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous criminal. Through Rocket's perspective of life, we understand the humanity of a world condemned to endless violence.


Over one million Rio de Janeiro residents live in ghettos devastated by drug trafficking and class warfare. In City of God, director Fernando Meirelles recounts the true story of two children who grew up in the slums of the '60s and how one turned to violence and another turned to photography during the disco '70s.

According to the young Rocket, "We were far from the picture-perfect postcard image of Rio de Janeiro." This ultra-realist MTV-style spectacle has the style and urgency but none of its moral ambiguities—every other line of Rocket's more or less throwaway voiceover makes gratuitous reference to the holiness and irony of the film's title and everyone's not-so-divine function as god, devil or angel of vengeance. Only when Meirelles chooses to focus on the rival Li'l Zé and Knockout Ned's ironic relationship to local police and media does the film transcend the non-stop bullet parade.

Still, Meirelles's competency as a storyteller is remarkable, as is the jittery lyricism with which he connects the film's many narratives and characters. Tarantino's influence is all over City of God though the effortless grace with which the entire film is assembled more accurately brings to mind Scorsese's Goodfellas. Even if the film packs the overall resonance of Casino, it's still never lacking in excitement. The calculated vigor and brutalism should appeal to anyone and is a sure hit.


The disc packs a trailer, highlights of the film, and interviews of the cast and crew where they share how the movie came about and processed. Also included are small pieces of behind the scenes of several keypoints of the film like the gun battle, dance ball and the stylized circular rigged camera work at the beginning of the film.


The film remains spectacular in the preserved widescreen. Cesar Charlone, the director of photography, saturates the imagery of the film in light, as if God himself was watching his “children” play their war games against the backdrop of the impoverished Brazilian people, and adds a unique dimension to the familiarity of gangster stories. Few films have looked as beautiful and as raw at precisely the same time, but Charlone gives each moment the same blaring intensity, whether it’s Rocket sharing a quiet moment with Angelica on the beach or Lil’ Ze teaching a six year-old street urchin a lesson in a back alley. From the hardcore soundtrack and clucking chickens to the perpetually firing guns and shouting, the sound mix is as good as it gets for a title like this.



Review by Lokman B S



This review is made possible with the kind support from Lighthouse Pictures and Axis Music


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