Film review: City of God

I got the chance to watch City of God whilst travelling around the world. The first destination on my exhilarating trip was the exotic and exciting Rio de Janiero. I arrived intrigued and slightly anxious after all the frightening things I had heard about this part of the world, but I am pleased to say it wasn’t as daunting as expected. I saw all the famous landmarks this wonderful city has to offer such as Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and the magnificent Maracana football stadium. I also travelled through the infamous favelas to get close-up to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, looking out over this beautiful city. My very first experience of Brazil was thrilling and it was a great introduction to my travels around this amazing continent.

Further along into my journey, I stopped for a week in Byron Bay, Australia. A laid-back, bohemian town, it was my kind of place. My hostel had a cinema room, and during my stay, it was to show the Brazilian film City of God. My lack of in-depth film knowledge meant I did not know too much about it; but what I did know was that it was set in Rio, that fun and fascinating city I had visited a few months earlier. This was definitely one to watch.

I didn’t speak Portuguese and did not have the chance to learn much of the language during my relatively short time in Brazil, so luckily this film was subtitled. This certainly wasn’t a hindrance to watching City of God. Gritty, romantic, violent, action-packed, scary and gripping; this film is positively one to remember. It shows the struggles of Rio’s poorest trying to survive in the dangerous, mud-constructed, crime-ridden favelas, where gun fights are a daily occurrence. The film brought back memories of my taxi driving behind a police car for part of my journey through this neighbourhood, with officers pointing machine guns out of their car windows.

The beauty of this film is that it captures real life, but also gives a helping-hand to those it portrays so realistically. It hit home how precarious these shanty towns can be, but also the tremendous talent of the local actors and actresses in the film. All but one of the main cast was from the favelas, mainly children and teenagers. They had been given their chance to shine, and shine they certainly did. The superb cast deserve all the acclaim they received for their tremendous performances.

A truly fantastic film and a truly wonderful city; a must-see on-screen and in person.

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