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City of God  (2002)

IMDB Rating 8.7/10  130 min - Rated 18 Drama | Crime

Stars:            Alexandre Rodrigues,  Leandro Firmino             Directors:    Fernando Mereilles,  Katia Lund

Shot using a hand held camera, City of God is a vibrant and dynamic glimpse of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The story is told from the point of view of Rocket (Rodrigues) a quiet boy with no intention of falling into the cesspit of petty crime, drugs and violence that surrounds him. Instead he takes photos of his surroundings in order to try and escape them. Li'l Ze (Firmino) however, grows up leading a gang and is a ruthless, cold-hearted killer who builds up an empire that controls the City of God. Shocking and violent, this film pulls no punches; murder and robbery are everyday events for even the youngest child and when gang warfare breaks out, everyone is pulled in.  The opening shot of the film is wonderfully imaginative and a signal to the audience that they are in for a great ride. The camera chases a horde of screaming, laughing kids who are, in turn, chasing a chicken. In a moment the whole mood changes, the kids become Li'l Ze's gang; draw their guns and square up to a group of cops. Rocket finds himself caught in the middle; the camera begins a mad circle around him before setting us down twenty years earlier.  The inventive camera work and use of fast editing gives the film a vibrancy and energy like no other. In addition, some wonderful characters and a sprinkling of humour give the whole movie a balance that shows the filmmakers' compassion for their subject.