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“City of God” (2002) by Fernando Meirelles Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022

The Movie City of God, directed by came into scenes in 2002 in Portugal and hit the worldwide market in 2003. The movie dramatizes crime and drug dealing in Brazil as part of life in slums. The main characters are children and Meirelles, together with his co-director Katia Lund depict children as either dupes or culprits of crime. This movie contains violent panoramas and conniptions and not everyone can watch it.

Meirelles used “Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound” to capture a documentary tone to this film (Kleinman para. 9). This gave rich background sound, an element that catches viewer’s attention throughout the movie. The picture of the film is excellent for the film is showcased in “Widescreen anamorphic letterbox format with an aspect ration of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16X9 televisions” (Kleinman para. 8).

In the plot, the movie opens by pictures of boys preparing some chicken for a meal. One chicken gets away, three armed boys pursue it, and it comes to a standstill between the armed boys and Rocket, a boy who thinks that this pack is after his life. A series of violent scenes follows where the three-armed boys are dubbed the “Tender Trio”.

Corruption, murder, rape, crime, drug abuse, and trafficking dominate the scenes in this film. The location of this movie is in a Brazilian slum in Rio de Janeiro near Cidade de Deus. Perfect camera work and delirious editing captivates viewers greatly and this makes the film livelier. The cast includes Alexandre Rodriguez acting as ‘Rocket’ and Luis Otavio the main characters.

In a move that many people did not expect, Meirelles chose to use non-professional actors in this movie. Moreover, most of these actors like Leandro Firmino da Hora are residents of the slum in Cidade de Deus. However, Meirelles gave the reasons for using this kind of actors. He said, “Professional actors are great, but for this project we were dealing with an environment that no professional actor in Brazil had any knowledge of. We needed the expertise of the boys and it was intrinsic to my work that we use them” (Barraclough para. 11).

Authenticity should be the core element in cinema. Directors and producers should strive for authenticity to relate movies to what happens in real life situations. Movies should be educative. For instance, not everyone can go to Cidade de Deus; however, by watching City of God, one can understand what really happens down there. No wonder Meirelles says, “It (use of non-professional locals living in that slum) gave the film an authenticity that would have been lacking if we had used professional actors” (Barraclough para. 11).

Meirelles did not do something revolutionary. This is because use of non-professional actors to achieve authenticity had been in film industry for quite sometime before he directed the City of God in 2002. For instance, the Battle of Algiers released in 1966, uses the same aspects as the City of God. However, it is important to note that Meirelles work is outstanding and this explains why this film has won four Academic awards including the Best Cinematography in 2004 (Andrews, Biggs, and Seidel 66).

The city named “City of God” in this movie is a slum commonly known as favela in Brazil. In the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 Films, the City of God comes at number sixteen and this exemplifies the good work that Meirelles together with his co-director Katia Lund did (IMDb Charts).

Works Cited

Andrews, Robert, Biggs, Mary, & Seidel, Michael. “The Columbia World of Quotations.” New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Barraclough, Leo. “.” 2003. Web.

IMDb Charts. “.” 2010. Web.

Kleinman, Jeremy. “.” 2004. Web.

Meirelles, Fernando. “City of God.” DVD. Buena Vista International. 2002.

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