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City of God

City of God, the Brazilian coming of age film, directed by Fernando Meirelles, completely changed my life when I first saw it, and has done so every time since then. City of God is a thrilling and suspenseful film; it forces its audience to completely immerse themselves in the dangerous everyday life experienced in Rio de Janeiro’s slum known as City of God. City of God, tells the tale of two young boys growing up in the crime-ridden and drug-filled slum. Analyzing this film brings to light how strong the cinematography, editing, and symbolism are in this film.

The film is told by the main character, Buscapé, in which he narrates the story of his early life, along with the life of one of his childhood friends. Buscapé himself dreams of becoming a photographer, this dream of his helps to push this film’s cinematography to the next level. Buscapé narrates the film and shows the change in his life over the period of three decades. Each decade is shot from different camera angles and in different styles. Such dramatic changes in the camera angles helps the audience to directly connect with the events portrayed in the film. Many of the scenes also feel fast-paced, this editing lets the audience feel as if time is happening fast, rather than dragged along over the course of three decades. Many films fail to make time appear so fleeting.

The editing and cinematography are not the only things that set City of God apart from many other films; it is the symbolism and use of character development that shapes the film. There is a scene in which Li'l Ze, who is Buscapé’s childhood friend, plans and executes a massacre. This scene is gruesome, but what the audience must realize is that Li’l Ze is only following the guidance of those before him. This is true for many individuals in real life. I feel it is important for society to realize that they are setting examples for future individuals. The children of Rio de Janeiro’s City of God feel somewhat failed by the system. However, the difference between Li’l Ze and Buscapé is noteworthy. Buscapé does accomplish his goals and dreams to become a photographer, while Li’l Ze is murdered at the end of the film. The actual murder of Li’l Ze was photographed by Buscapé; these two characters, who grew up together but went down two different paths, are a perfect representation of juxtaposition. On one hand you have a character who followed the only things he knew, which were drugs and crime, and on another hand you have a character who was able to break out of a premade mold given to him by society and the system that failed his friend.

City of God brought to light the deep and inner problems faced by the child living in the slums of Brazil. The nontraditional way of presenting this story of Li’l Ze and Buscapé was remarkable and ahead of its time. I believe that if everyone were to watch City of God, almost every individual would change their perspectives on their future and what is within their power. Buscapé is a perfect example of the nonconforming dreamer, while Li’l Ze shows what happens when you are not given the right resources and tools to overcome your situation.

City of God, to me, is a coming of age film, way ahead of its time and underappreciated. Its use of cinematography, modernism, and editing are comparable to that of blockbuster films made by billion dollar production companies. I was only eight when I first watched the film; now I am eighteen, having watched it over fifty times, I can say it is one of my favorite films. With its thrilling and suspenseful plot, the film not only captures the audience but also lets them live through the characters.

 

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