The community's reaction to City of God

Though City of God missed out on an Oscar nomination (the inadequacies of the Foreign Film portion of the Oscar commitee are quite another subject, though), it has at the very least shown to both Brazilian viewers and international viewers the danger that is inherent in today's tendency to marginalize the lower classes. The effect of the film on any viewers with enough of an open mind to watch it is extremely powerful; the cinematography matches each scene's mood closely, and the editing is tight and well-done. The effect on the Cidade de Deus neighborhood itself, however, has been quite different.

Many inhabitants of that neighborhood now complain of being discriminated against even further because of the movie's portrayal; some go as far as to tell potential employers that they live not in Cidade de Deus but a nearby neighborhood. The events in the movie take place decades ago, they say; the reality today is different.

The most outspoken critic has been rapper MV Bill, who lives in Cidade de Deus. He states that in Brazil it is all too common to "give with one hand and take away with the other"; he requests that in this case the roles should be reversed, that (the producers) should "take away with one hand and give with the other". Film director Fernando Meireles has stated he agrees with MV Bill's statements, and says the reason they did not get as involved with the community as they could have been was due to the fact that much of the film was not shot there, but in Cidade Alta and Nova Sepetiva.

As to the people of Cidade de Deus themselves, opinion seems to be split. Some feel that the movie's effect is neither positive nor negative, since it reflects a reality of decades past. Others, including some of the actors in the movie, feel differently: "The film's intent is like that of a hip hop video: denounce violence to try to change the situation", states Roberta Rodrigues, who plays Berenice in the film. Yet another group states that the discrimination was there before the film anyway, and the film can't be blamed.

Some solutions presented have been for some of the royalties to return to the community - however, at least from personal experience, having briefly met co-director Katia Lund, the film has not really brought enormous returns, financially, to its creators. Maybe its international release changed that a little, but the effects have probably not been much greater. The issue most prominent in the debate seems to be if art is merely a method of portraying a reality and hopefully sparking change, or if it should be both the agent of portrayal and change - if, for example, the film's earnings brought about positive changes to the community. The fact that the film involved dozens, if not hundreds, of members of the community and gave them a start in film-making is already a start - though it is still far from a resolution to the problems. One can only hope that the film's portrayal of this brutal reality will spark a renewed social movement to get to the root of the problem and change it. Those interested in City of God would also be interested in Pixote, a more São Paulo-centric view of the problem of youth in Brazil - and the fact that that film's main actor, Fernando Ramos Da Silva, who was a non-professional actor prior to the movie, failed to make a career in cinema after the movie and was mysteriously murdered a few years later serves as a warning.


Júlia Maria e Ramiro Zwtsch. "Cidade de Deus em pé de guerra" (City of God at brink of war)