A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie contains nonstop violence and frequent deaths, including the murders of main characters. In this 130-minute long film, there are only a handful of scenes where the characters are safe from peril and the audience can relax with them. There are explicit references to sexual intercourse and a non-explicit but deeply disturbing rape scene that should not be viewed by children.
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What's the story?
City of God, the favela (squatter settlement) for which the movie is named, is one of Rio de Janeiro's most notorious slums. Our narrator is a young boy named Rocket who leads us from the late '60's, when the favela is orderly rows of pre-fab housing for the poverty-stricken, into the early '80's when it has become a warren of bleak apartment blocks that residents can't escape. As young Rocket (Luis Otavio, as a boy, Alexandre Rodrigues, as a teen) watches, the favela dissolves into conditions conducive to crime, the rule of the gun, and, eventually, full-blown turf war. The young favela sports such low grade hoods as the "Tender Trio," comprising Rocket's older brother, Goose (Renato de Souza), Clipper (Jefechander Suplino) and idea-man Shaggy (Jonathan Haagensen). The Trio's antics do not extend beyond stealing fuel from trucks and, after a robbery goes awry, one boy turns to the church while another is taken firmly in hand by his father. But they are replaced by the malevolent Lil' Dic (Douglas Silva, as a boy, Leandro Firmino da Hora, as a teen) and his side-kick, the forgiving Benny (Phellipe Haagensen). When Lil' Dic decides to take control, a series of small scale coups escalate into turf war with Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) and "good" man turned vigilante, Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge).
Is it any good?
Brazil's nomination for Oscar consideration is a blood-spattered, non-stop ride as much into the life of a "favela" as it is into the lives of the youths who inhabit it. Although the bulk of the movie narrates the all-out turf wars between two rival drug dealers, the story is deliberately told with the energy, liveliness and digressions of a child's tale, somehow managing to leave us hope amongst the corpses as the credits roll.
It is Rocket, who dreams of becoming a photographer, who leads us through a world which no outsiders dare enter. The other inhabitants may be living their own quiet lives, however Rocket is on the periphery of the action and lives through the turf wars in a deeply personal way. From his first crush to his first camera, Rocket shares experiences both touching and humorous as well as his losses.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the evolution of the characters from children into adults. When the boy nicknamed "Steak & Fries" argues to a crowd of drug dealers that because he has smoked, snorted, killed and robbed, he is a man, the crowd bawls with laughter. It does not matter that the boy, perhaps 10 years old, is only slightly younger than these teenagers. What, besides chronology, does make someone an adult? What choices does Knockout Ned make that turn him from a local hero to just another gangster? The rise of a younger generation of hoods in the form of the gun-toting pre-teens known as "the Runts" presents us with the specter of never-ending violence. What is the future of the favela at the end of the movie? What could stop the vicious circle? What decision does Rocket make about his photographs at the end? Is this what you would have done?
- In theaters: January 17, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2004
- Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge
- Directors: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong brutal violence, sexuality, drug content and language
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