City of God

Puff and I watched City of God tonight.

It is an astonishingly good film. I realize it’s all trendy for middle class white people to watch movies about the sufferings of other nations and feel guilty, but…you should watch it. I have a certain affinity for Brazil, probably from reading too much Jorge Amado, and it was neat to see what life in the favelas could be like, rather than just reading it. It’s also interesting that most of the actors were not professionals…indeed, many of them were portraying film versions of their life selves.

The cinematography…was amazing. I know that I’m supposed to tell you about how the film moved me and made me think about how awful child soldiers and poverty and drugs are, but I could not stop marveling at the lighting, angles, and style. For all of the grittiness it portrays, the movie is incredibly beautiful. Things revealed themselves, opening up like flowers and then closing, and it was wonderful to see. The cinematography alone would have captivated me. Some of the angles were really creative and interesting, a far cry from the very conventional American films I watch. Even the “edgy” ones seem to use the same stock camera angles. Also some awesome use of lighting, and of color. The film felt very rich and saturated.

The film was also very dialogue driven, and I wish that I knew Brazilian Portuguese, because I feel as though I missed a lot. The characters were constantly interacting, laying text over one another, shading things with layers of meaning. I kept catching occasional words or phrases and wanting to know more, and I feel like there were a lot of cultural references that went over my head, especially around religion.

An interesting glimpse of live in the favelas, told in a beautiful and unapologetic way. I didn’t feel like the film dramatized the horror of poverty, or was supposed to make people feel stricken with guilt about the lives that they live. It was simply a quiet study in contrasts: this is the life some people live. This is the life other people live. There is a scene much later in the film where the main character is visiting someone, and I was amazed by her highly modernized, really nice apartment: it looked like a house in San Francisco, in a nice district. The main character grew up in a mud house with no electricity or running water…and yet the houses in the film are only minutes away from each other.

Although the movie was about Brazil, it made me think about parallels in American society, the favelas of Hunter’s Point and Richmond compared to the nice apartments of Noe Valley. The wars that people fight in the streets, and the people who get caught up in them.

[City of God]