No spoilers at all below
Cidade de Deus landed in English cinemas in early January 2003. It is a Brazilian movie, in the Brazilian Portuguese language, from a book by Paulo Lins, subtitled in English as City of God
City of God is the best new movie that I've seen in about a year. Actually I can't think when I last saw something like it.
The Two Towers is also the best movie I've seen in a while. But whereas J.R.R. Tolkien is the ultimate in genre called fantasy that defines escapism, City of God is real, real, real. Reality here is a Brazilian slum in Rio de Janeiro. The story is based on real events. It's a story of poverty, guns, money, drugs and power. It could be any favela's story.
The City of God of the title is a suburb of Rio, built in the 1960s as a home for the poor and homeless. A place to put the unwanted. Somewhere out of the way.
The cast and crew are no one you’ve ever heard of unless you know Brazilian cinema.
The production quality is good. Not Hollywood-good, but more than adequate to tell a story. The story may start off seeming like a workshopped slice of life, but it becomes apparent that they know where they are going, they have learned their storytelling moves well, perhaps with a few lessons from Quentin Tarantino.
At first it's hard to take the characters seriously, these dirty, scrawny brown kids with shorts, no shirts and their antique revolvers. Then we got to that scene with the choice (you'll know the one), during which a woman at the back of the cinema had hysterics, and you realise where it's coming from.
The unspoken subtext is that, that if you shunt all the poor people to a dumping-ground, and abandon them there, then not only are the results to them wrong, but the consequences will come back to bite you. Toting an uzi and hungry for your money.
We are free to choose our own actions. But our freedom is circumscribed in many ways. Firstly by reality. You can't choose to fly. You have to walk. Secondly by opportunities. Maybe the only choice you have in nearby food is McDonald's or Burger King, and your choices are all the same. Choice is not freedom. Thirdly what you like, what you desire, is not plucked from the void, but drawn from what you see around you, from your role models and environment.