City Of God: Scorcese With Samba

Another dreary Sunday afternoon, another amazing film: this time it’s the Brazilian epic City Of God. It’s one of those films I simply assume that everyone has seen, but judging by the number of people who hadn’t seen La Haine, I guess that’s naive. If you haven’t, you really should.

City Of God tells the (scarily true) story of the development of the vicious drug gangs in the slums of Rio. It’s narrated by Rocket, a boy who grows up in the slums and knows the hoodlums but who doesn’t want to become one – instead he dreams of being a photo-journalist. Over the course of two decades Rocket catalogues the rise of Lil’ Ze, the most ruthless of all the hoodlums who notches up his first murder whilst still in short trousers.

City Of God is, in many ways, like a South American Goodfellas: not only does it chart the real-life gangsters, and shows how crime really is totally lacking in glamour, it also has amazing camera-work and a fantastic soundtrack. And, like many Mafia movies, the cast also inludes a large number of amateurs: locals who had never appeared in movies before but whose performances are absolutely brilliant.

City Of God is beautiful, depressing, uplifting and funny – often at the same time. It also brought Seu Jorge to the world’s attention and deserves plaudits for that alone. Luckily it has much more to offer that just that though and will be enjoyed by anyone with a soft-spot for Scorcese & samba. And anyone who likes any of the stuff I tend to write about will probably also enjoy this, a mash-up I found of footage from City Of God with Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.


  1. A wonderful film. I lose count of the number of reasons I love this film.

    Have you seen City of Men? It’s billed as a kind of follow-up to City of God I think but I’ve never gotten around to watching it, mainly because it’s obviously not going to be anywhere near as good as City of God.

  2. I haven’t seen it, no. It’s got a lot of the original team from City Of God involved so I am considering it – I saw an interesting interview with the City Of God director the other day and he mentioned directing one of the episodes of City Of Men.

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