Cidade de Deus (2002)

Suburbs of Rio | 130 minutes

Movie Info


Welcome to the world’s most notorious slum: Rio de Janeiro’s  City of God. A place where combat photographers fear to tread, where Police rarely go, and residents are lucky if they aren’t confronted and the boys rally around the gangs. So much so, it’s okay to be scared, but it’s not okay to find the street gangs and the juveniles supposed to be doing because it’s Cidade de Deus. The film is based on the true story of a young man who grew up on these streets of Rio, and whose ambition to be a photographer in the lawless ghetto where the city’s poorest and most dangerous citizens live and Fernando Meirelles voice the unyielding saga of hope, of violence, and of love.

City of God (In Portuguese-Cidade de Deus) is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The story was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li’l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned. The tagline is “If you run, the beast catches; if you stay, the beast eats”, (a proverb analogous to the English “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”).

The cast includes Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Jonathan Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga and Seu Jorge. Most of the actors were, in fact, residents of favelas such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus itself.

An intoxicating shot of cinematic adrenaline, “City of God” starts with a desperate chicken escaping slaughter and being chased by a gang of pistol-packing young boys. It’s the fitting metaphor for the frantic fight for survival of the protagonists in this ferocious blast of gangster mayhem.

Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) narrates our journey into the slums of Rio de Janeiro, the City of God. A child of the 60s, he witnesses two decades of barbarity, greed, rape and revenge which fuel a catastrophic gang war. Fear and an instinct for self-preservation keep him on the straight and narrow, but his childhood associate Li’l Zé (Leandro Firmino da Hora) grows into the ghetto’s godfather – a ruthless, demented killer.

This is in strong comparisons with some of the Scorsese or Park Chan-wook’s crime films, that’s seem   unavoidable, given the hyperkinetic action, tar black comedy, and eye-snatching visual panache, with who would be the street king of spectacularly derived boy mobsters and what do they merit is all about the desperation drivers of these children to acts of outrageous violence, crime appears to be the only option in the moral and economic wasteland of the Brazilian favelas. Even the grotesque Li’l Zé is not without humanity, while the fate of other so-called gangsters is poignant.

Rocket witnesses the ensuing gun fights and revenge killings through the lens of his camera. Rodrigues delivers a compelling performance as the film’s beleaguered narrator, and Silva and later da Hora radiate seething ambition and rage as the pint-sized killer with a heart of stone.

Cut to task- Fernando Meirelles hand-picked around more than 100 street kids from the actual Cidade de Deus and sited them into a temporary acting class. Besides, the making was intensely stimulated through the series of slum communities and real streets of gang fights and César Charlone’s camera work lifting the atmosphere of tension and fear are breathtaking, knowing the dreaded violence ravaged by poverty, government neglect and deeply rooted gangs are merciless and can go to any extent of frightening battles for dominance of those sloping street of an uncontrolled turn.

This unsurpassed movie was Brazil’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 75th Academy Awards in 2003. The movie was flanked without any nomination. The same year, Miramax released the movie in the U.S. which qualified it for other categories the following year. In 2004, City of God was nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay). This Brazilian movie is special of sorts as it earned for more than two Oscar nominations.

City of God was ranked third in Film4’s “50 Films to See Before You Die”, and ranked No.7 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema” in 2010.Also ranked No.6 on The Guardian’s list of “the 25 Best Action Movies Ever”. It was ranked 1# in Paste magazine’s 50 best movies of the decade of the 2000s. In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed City of God as the seventeenth best-edited film of all time based on a survey of its members.

City of God in its substance match the arrogance of lashing panache. Mind blowing & cinema doesn’t get more exhilarating than this. For all its whiz-bang film making, editing and outrageous entertainment value, the movie is grounded by its true-life origins and the superb performances of a largely non-professional cast flattened of shocking, frightening, thrilling and funny in those spirited streets, no matter how narrow it is and no way until the last minute of pulsating respire of all the fallen gods without sound or ceremony when we came out again

The Team

  • Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
  • Writer: Bráulio Mantovani
  • Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Douglas Silva, Seu Jorge, Luis Otavio and Matheus Nachtergaele
  • Cinematography by César Charlone
  • Edited by Daniel Rezende
  • Running time: 130 minutes
  • Length: 130 minutes
  • Country: Brazil
  • Language: Portuguese

Trailers & Videos


City of God - Trailer

Suburbs of Rio

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