The City of God
June 16, 2004 5:41 PM   Subscribe

The City of God (#29 IMDB top 250) is a film about life in Brazilian "favelas" (shantytowns) where poverty, drugs, violence and crime rule the streets. At murder rates of more than 40 per 100,000, one person shot every 30 minutes in the city, Rio ranks as the world's most dangerous places along with Cali, Colombia and Johannesburg, South Africa. Rio has over 600 favelas and the crime and violence is becoming so bad corporations are fleeing the city while the military is under direct assault and the prison system is breaking down. Favela guided tours available or see the movie available now on DVD.
posted by stbalbach (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The DVD also has a documentary on the same theme, shot by the same directors before City of God, in which the Rio de Janeiro police chief presents voilence and repression as the only way to contain the poor. On telling segment is a look at the flood of American and Swiss made guns smuggled into the country, that fuels the urban war.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:00 PM on June 16, 2004

I watched the DVD and extras last weekend. It was fascinating and frightening at the same time. Thanks for these links, I've been meaning to read up on it.
posted by dual_action at 6:08 PM on June 16, 2004

A very good movie. Also, if you can get it, watch Satya. It's more commercial, but definitely watchable.
posted by Gyan at 6:19 PM on June 16, 2004

Best movie of last year. Hands down. Very watchable, highly entertaining.
posted by graventy at 6:27 PM on June 16, 2004

It was good in February too /snark (all snarkiness aside, I really enjoyed this movie and I am glad it is finally out on DVD.)
posted by shoepal at 6:42 PM on June 16, 2004

I'll add my voice to the chorus of rave reviews. This has to be one of the best movies I've seen in the last 5 years, and I've a lot of films in that time. If I remember correctly, it was quite a long movie but I my interest never waned.

I can't wait to see what the director comes up with next.
posted by btwillig at 6:46 PM on June 16, 2004

The film is excellent. I watched it recently, and it has to be the best film I've seen in quite some time.
posted by chunking express at 7:00 PM on June 16, 2004

I'm planning on travelling to Brazil, some time in the next year, to learn more capoeira. I have to say this situation scares the shit out of me. I know my limits, and I doubt very much that a Kiwi, however canny, can muster enough street smarts for Rio survival without several years of hand-holding.

I have some contacts in Bahia and I intend to spend no more time in Rio than it takes to get on the next plane to Salvador.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:38 PM on June 16, 2004

Pixote is another good movie about kids from the favelas.
posted by cmonkey at 8:20 PM on June 16, 2004

The tagline for the tours in the final link:

"Beneficial to the community
Informative and surprising
Not voyeuristic at all"

Emphasis mine.
posted by themadjuggler at 10:24 PM on June 16, 2004

I have heard that a good number of the actors (who are almost entirely local kids from Rio) have been killed since the release of the movie.

This may be untrue, but it wouldn't surprise me.
posted by Jairus at 10:53 PM on June 16, 2004

Back in the 1970s, I visited Rio, and wandered carelessly up and down the Favellas, smiling at people, looking into the little huts and houses, drinking at the improvised bars. It felt all kind of cozy and safe -- certainly safer than New York City at the time. The whole of Rio had gentility as well as native wildness, and seemed to hint at some great prosperous future. At that time, of course, Brazil was ruled by a right-wing military dictatorship, which we all are obliged by principle to disdain. But I ask you this, did the dictatorship murder as many people as the disorder? Was the dictatorship and its business oligarchy worse for the poor than the gangsters?
posted by Faze at 6:25 AM on June 17, 2004

I lived in Rio for eight years, and things were different in the seventies. I spent a week there last month covering the Latin X-Games and had no trouble at all. I live in Sao Paulo and feel it is just as dangerous.

The problem in Rio (and in Brazil) is-and will continue to be-the grotesquely unjust distribution of wealth.

In the 70s things were much more relaxed, but I don't know anyone who would welcome the return of a military dictatorship. Torture + censorship? No thanks.
posted by ig at 6:45 AM on June 17, 2004


Do not let these overreactions dissuade you from visiting Rio. I was there not long ago, and heard the same 'warnings', only to find that, as usual, everything was exaggerated.

The city/beach/landscape is very beautiful, the beach area is safe, and the people are extremely friendly.

I'm not saying that I'd wander a favela at night, but as long as you stay near the beach area, you'll be alright. As they say, you can get mugged/killed in any big city in the world.
posted by eas98 at 7:44 AM on June 17, 2004

"I live in Sao Paulo"

I'm going to rob you, no one from Sao Paulo is cool.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:29 AM on June 17, 2004

I know my limits, and I doubt very much that a Kiwi, however canny, can muster enough street smarts for Rio survival without several years of hand-holding.

keep that in mind. there are little things you wouldn't think of, like, always perform a rolling stop at a stop sign or red light, if you can, so you don't get car jacked. i learned that one from a rio native.

Do not let these overreactions dissuade you from visiting Rio. I was there not long ago, and heard the same 'warnings', only to find that, as usual, everything was exaggerated.

yes. but on the other hand, my rio buddy's brother and sister bought a condo in a building facing a hilltop favella. it had been an apartment, and in order for it to become a condo, they had to install rocket-proof blast plating in the wall facing the favella.

it already had been reinforced against machine-gun fire (which rang out every evening) but there had been some stray rocket propelled grenades that month, so they upgraded the codes for those buildings.

make sure you're around somebody who speaks portuguese.
posted by taumeson at 9:13 AM on June 17, 2004

I don't know anyone who would welcome the return of a military dictatorship.

Thing about dictatorships is that they're usually reasonably predictable. You can toe the line and have a reasonable expectation of not being hurt.

The same can not be said of the current situation.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2004

AR-15s (American made grenade launchers) are the number one swag everyone wants in the film.

The documentary included w/the film does a good job with why this situation exists, as explained by the Chief of Police of Rio. Basically the government doesn't know what to do with all these poor people who flood into Rio (and elsewhere) from the Northeast and interior. So it put them in housing projects in the 1960s which then grew into the favelas. They then walled these areas off, literally and figuratively and use police to keep the elements from spilling over into the nicer parts of Rio while exploiting the cheap labour. That is basically all the police do, keep the people contained. It is state Apartheid. The police accomplish this a number of ways.. killing, stealing, oppression. All state sanctioned. This has lead to an all-out war between the state and the people in the Favelas. Except the people in the Favelas are so poor, so uneducated that they can never effectively organize and always revert back to infighting and base level crimes. The greatest fear the government has it that these people will become organized and there will be a Civil War.. so they do everything they can to keep them down through corruption and violence.. the government creates this just like in South Africa, a very immoral situation that the society of Brazil has created through its decisions on how to deal with the disadvantaged.
posted by stbalbach at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2004 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, AR-15's are M-16's -- machine guns, not rocket launchers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:40 AM on June 17, 2004

..but they are grenade launchers which use rockets. Not sure your clarification? The original poster said "rocket grenade launcher".. that is an AR-15.
posted by stbalbach at 12:03 PM on June 17, 2004

"I live in Sao Paulo"

I'm going to rob you, no one from Sao Paulo is cool.
KeithTalent, feel
free to try ; )... And actually, there ARE cool people in Sao Paulo: osGêmeos
| Jun Matsui | Jacira
| Adriana Recchi | Marlene
(!!!) Fernando Meirelles, the director of City of God, was also born in SP.
(i wasn't. but then again, i'm not cool either) Should you need more
examples of cool people in SP please let me know.
posted by ig at 12:19 PM on June 17, 2004

No offense, I'm certain that the biggest dork in Sao Paulo looks like Hugh Hefner, Snoop Doggy Dog and Cary Grant all rolled up into one compared to my average Canadian compatriot. It was just a line (that I probably mangled) from the movie.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:03 PM on June 17, 2004

I'm sorry, stbalbach, but the AR-15 is the manufacturer's name for the what the military calls the M-16. There are subtle differences between generic AR-15's and M-16's, mostly the chamber construction. You can read about AR-15 derivatives here if you like. The AR in AR-15 stands for automatic rifle.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:33 PM on June 17, 2004

Just to add...

That doesn't mean you can't strap an RPG launcher to your AR-15, of course. But the actual weapon that the people in the movie talk so lovingly about are automatic rifles.

These still offer an impressive amount of firepower for the run-of-the-mill gang on the streets.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2004

Rats, on further review, the AR stands for Armalite, the manufacturer of the AR-series rifles, not automatic rifle. Just FYI.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:38 PM on June 17, 2004

stbalbach - thanks for the post.
posted by troutfishing at 7:53 PM on June 17, 2004

favela = hovel
posted by firestorm at 8:41 PM on June 17, 2004

The clip they showed in the movie of an AR-15 had a rocket propelled grenade launcher attached to it so that's why I figured.. anyway doesnt matter, I am not a favela gangster like the 10 year old kids who know more about this stuff, when I was a kid we had bottle rockets.
posted by stbalbach at 11:21 PM on June 17, 2004

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