City of God review

We here at Yatta love films. So we wanted to start a weekly section here on the blog where we give you a review of great films, all for different tastes. Today we start with ‘City of God’.

WARNING: The following review is of a film rated 18!


It’s about that time of the year when you open your presents. I can guarantee that, above all else, you enjoy the festivities to such an extent that it’s no longer a Hornby train set and Walt Disney’s Lion King; but a second generation iPad and the Godfather Trilogy. Here, we’re about good films, and the first of this archive is a cluster of stories, encased in a neat pastiche. As two children grow up in the dark epoch of drugs and slaughter, Rio de Janeiro’s dessimated society separates them: One wishing to achieve publication as a photographer and the other forming a cartel of drug-smugglers and ‘young men with rifles’. This film isn’t for the feint of heart, as the tails that are portrayed replicate the harsh divide within small areas of Rio de Janeiro, specifically the City of God.

In a multitude of scenes, graphic images best convey the message that not every country is enshrined with democracy. Being immersed in such a unified society, this production definitely hits home. The sheer contrast between watching the tragedy whilst in a comforting home, with those you love around you and the violence that encages City of God is enough to view this film alone. The pallet of camera angles, interlinking plotlines and subtle, moral scenes emphasises how we treat what we have as neccessity, than than a luxury. For me to be contemplating the morals of this intricate film, is enough for it to be considered insightful and emotionally demanding of the viewer.

I enjoy light films, but also one’s with a bit of bite to them. With fifty-five wins under its belt, City of God prizes itself over its gentle immersion into the unspoken cycle of corruption within Rio de Janeiro; and its clear why. Being an idyllic setting, with coved beaches and crystal surf, the viewer would almost envy the life they lead. But when the young are recruited in this same natural paradise, the small blip of terror begins to impregnate the youth, possessing them to work for the antagonist of the film, Li’l Zé [Leandro Firmino].


What is even more special about this film is the underplayed acting, and exploration into a culture we can rarely identify with. Being a film with original scriptwriting, we see the City of God as for what it is, a corrupt society. However the directors, Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, pedal the notion that Rio de Janeiro isn’t in the same sphere of positive morals and western technology as we are. For these directors, detailing the seriousness of this topic, and how the lives of small children are used as bargaining chips for large cartels, shows that corporatism and elitism has infected even the poorest areas of our world, dessimating any hope for pride, honour and respect.

Especially in the story of Knockout Ned [Seu Jorge], lives are shown to be used as tools, killing the lifeblood of another simply increasing the status of the latest ‘Fat cat’. In watching this movie for the first time, I was awe-struck by the lack of innocence, the lack of fraility that each of the characters could control. For the protagonist, his ability to take photographs best displayed his emotions, and the state in which the City of God had undertaken.

If there is anything to take out of this movie, it is that a path is best not followed, but built yourself. If you decide to become the bad guy, the one who will utilise another for their own private gain, it’ll only stab you in the back. Perhaps the directors were attempting to further portray the City of God as a microcosm of western civilization; the greed of corporations and the lack of government aid. But as we learn throughout the film, sometimes the best message is a snapshot.

Rating: 4.3/5



Continuing next week, I will be looking at the outcasted model Wall-E, and how such a robot became the protagonist of a well constructed sci-fi adventure.

Words: Josh Carson

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