City of God Review

City of God (2003)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles

City of God is Slumdog Millionaire with the guts and courage to be true to its story. While it contains all the vibrancy and urgency of life that people loved in Slumdog, City of God is faithful to the reality of the hard (godless) situations you find in slums, or in this case the favellas. Instead of throwing in a ‘feel good’ plotline about destiny (without squaring it with the destitution that so many are forced to live in), City of God pulls the viewer into the favella (the Brazilian version of the slum) and requires them to confront the evil, the moral decay, and the struggle to survive that characterize it. This is not a feel good film.

After the first time I watched City of God, I actually fell into a depression that I didn't shake off for nearly three days. I could not believe that the film was based on a true story and that this could really happen in people’s lives. The ability for this film to convey the hopeless and endless circles of poverty and violence is not only powerful, but also dangerous. I caution those who enter into this film, it will challenge you. There are no easy answers here, no trite conclusions, and it’s all the more impactful for that.

I’m going to end this commentary here (even though I haven’t given a plotline or anything) because I think you get the picture of how I feel about it. I wouldn’t want to do without this film because it is a constant reminder about what people will do to survive, how decisions to do the wrong thing can lead to real moral decay, and how hopeless some situations can truly be. It’s a wake-up call to the idealistic, and a punch in the stomach to those with lofty ideas of a blind force of fate and destiny. Perhaps that exists in other places, but not in the City of God.