It has been awhile since I have been utterly stunned by both the storytelling and the cinematography of a film, especially one that emerges from beyond Hollywood. But Montovani’s story, as directed byFernado Meirelles, has to be listed as a GSM (Good Stinkin’ Movie). Available now on DVD, this film is the recounting of one young man’s life growing-up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, in its "City of God", a place where the masses of Rio’s poor reside, and a place where only miracles from God can change the course of their lives.
Mantovani’s story is a densely layered film that has so many natural, authentic twists the viewer is truly caught by the very next scene. This coupled with using variety of camera angles, Meirelles captures the frenetic, desperate lives of the city’s youth. By virtue of birth one is placed into a vicious machine of desperation, depravity, and violence. This is a place where only the young and strong survive. This is place where hope is but a whisper and the hard-luck life is an every day commodity.
When looking up the background to this true story of Wilson Rodriques life, I was shocked to discover the average life expectancy of those living in the city slum is 19 year of age. Let me repeat that, the life expectancy is 19 years of age! Multiple news and humanitarian agencies, including the US State Department have attempted to bring to this slum’s story to the forefront of the global community, but the Brazilian government has insisted there is an ongoing and concerted effort bring to security and stabilization to the slum. Since this "concerted effort" has been initiated child kidnappings, prostitution, and slavery have actually risen in the Rio area, including in this slum.
This film starts in the late fifties and progress thru to the mid seventies when the cocaine trade became Brazil’s number one export. From this story it is easy to see the tragic cycle of hate and viciousness that people – children – are capable of when love is removed from the formula.
Negatives: The only real criticism one might have with this flick is that it’s a foreign subtitled film, but with today’s video disc technologies, missing a character’s line is easier to go back to than re-winding in the "old days".
Caution: As with so many movies today, this film is rated "R", but it is almost completely for the up in your face violence that is depicted in this movie. There are some scenes of sexual violence; however, Meirelles realizing that this too is apart of life in the city, opts to use obscure camera angles that prevents any real visuals, but still conveys the tragic point. Again, the renter needs to be cautioned when watching this gripping story, but for those brave souls its well worth the viewing.
Bottomline: This is masterfully told story and Meirelles delivers the goods with fantastic cinematography. Films like this only further accentuate the Church’s burden to continue to spread the message of the Gospel's hope into areas beyond the 10/40 window. This is a must rent!