City of God (Cidade de Deus)
Moving, vibrant and shot through with the kind of energy that isn’t quite like anything else, City of God is not only a gripping, indecently entertaining thriller and a coming-of-age story but an intimate look at life in a Brazilian favela where children both reign over their world and are crushed under its weight. Several intersecting stories are brought together through the narration of Rocket, a serious, budding photographer who becomes the film‘s moral and artistic centre as he follows his dreams, and his friend Li’l Dice (later renamed Li‘l Ze), who has dedicated his life to becoming a gangster, a calling he has pursued with a wide-eyed, violent intensity since he was a small child. In streets where life is cheap, the film’s colourful, visceral charge through the favela invests life there with a kind of preciousness, even through outlining the degradation and violence that the characters duck and dive their way through on a daily basis. Meirelles achieves this through actively engaging with the favela, resisting the temptation to sugar-coat or glamourise it, turning it into a living, breathing organism in its own right; one that brings forth children, sustains them for a while, and chews them up. A compelling, plunging ride through the lives of people on the margins, told with the furious haste and precision it deserves, City of God is an audacious film that puts the watcher right in the centre of the action, thrusting us into a world that we may not ever have considered.