In my quest to learn as much as I can about Brazil and life therein, my Google searches brought me to this film called Cidade de Deus (City of God). I’ve been eager to watch it on Netflix for some time, but because it’s such a long movie (130 minutes) and I have the attention span of my golden retriever in a butcher shop, I kept bookmarking the title for another day.
Yesterday was that day.
Cidade de Deus is a Brazilian crime drama directed by Fernando Meirelles. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins. Supposedly it’s based on a true story. Generally, I’m very skeptical of films that brandish that tagline, but in this case I have no doubt that the overall content of the story is very real.
Drug lords, gang wars, murders and fear are rampant anywhere in the world.
The story of CDD follows a kid named Buscapé (Rocket) and his life in the favela just outside of Rio de Janeiro. As the other children in his neighborhood grow up to be drug lords, junkies and criminals, Buscapé stays in school in hopes of one day becoming a photographer. Despite trying to avoid the gang life, he always ends up getting caught in the middle of their affairs; although, he’s very good at staying out of actual trouble.
Overall, the film shows the cycle of gang-related activity in the slums, or poorer overlooked areas in general. Children as young as six idolize their older brothers that kill and steal, and as they grow older they fall into that same lifestyle — snorting cocaine, holding up markets, and eventually dying in the streets. It’s a very gritty film that could be hard to watch for some, but I’m fascinated by things like this.
I’ve had some people ask my “Why Brazil? Why Rio de Janeiro?” when I say that’s where I plan to go this year. Family members tell me that it’s a dangerous place and ask why I wouldn’t rather go to a nice tropical island instead.
This kind of stuff doesn’t just happen in Rio. Even in the US, there are plenty of places where people are struggling with this kind of life.
And while I’m interested in meeting people living in the favelas and learning about their lives, I’m not going to actively seek out trouble. From my understanding, places like CDD have vastly improved over the years (though I’m sure there’s some political controversy surrounding those situations).
For me, I want to meet people and hear and share their stories. Give the world some perspective on life in areas outside of their comfort zone. Maybe it’s dangerous, maybe it’s not. I’m not going to let the reputations of areas like this stop me from seeing and learning about the people I share this planet with.
I digress. Overall, I thought the film was very well done.
Another interesting thing I noticed while watching this movie was the people. Even in the favelas, there were people of all colors — black, white, brown, etc. While I’m sure some form of racism or another can exist there, it doesn’t seem that hate is based on the color of skin. Maybe it’s movie magic, but I have a feeling that this is true in Brazil. After all, it is a huge melting pot of a country.
Anyway, I absolutely recommend this film. Even if not completely based on a true story, it’s difficult to deny the realness of its elements.