'City of God' (2002) Represents Violence and Poverty as 'Spectacle'. Essay

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Some scholars criticise Cidade de Deus / City of God (2002) on the grounds that the film represents violence and poverty as a ‘spectacle’ and fails to relate these issues to the wider socio-political context of contemporary Brazil. Is this criticism justified?

‘There are…two kinds of film makers: one invents an imaginary reality; the other confronts an existing reality and attempts to understand it, criticise it…and finally, translate it into film’

Fernando Biri, 1979[1]

Fernando Meirelles’s City of God (2002) has provoked critical discussion concerning its representation of the Brazilian working class since its release[2]. The film has been described as both disturbing and electrifying for its brutal realism and inspired
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The first section of the film is dubbed ‘The Story of the Tender Trio’. We are taken back in time to the nineteen-sixties where the City of God is no more than an orderly complex of neat bungalow where we are introduced to a more youthful Rocket. He is centred in a mid-shot which then cuts to a medium-long shot of his friends aiming a football in his direction. Two features are immediately apparent: the colour, lighting and the landscape. The earth on which the boys are playing appears to stretch far into the distance. This then cuts to shot in which we appear behind Rocket, who is guarding the goal posts. A wide-angle lens is used here which acts in furthering the sense of space. The camera is static and the cuts are unhurried. This is not the dark, urban favela to which we were previously introduced and hints, therefore, at a sense of simplicity and freedom. The colour palette consists of yellows, oranges, deep browns and whites and a golden hue saturates the frame. This creates a romantic and certainly nostalgic tone for a past which has been lost. The dazzling white of the overexposed sunlight encourages a ‘retro’ feel but also a sense of desert barrenness and scorching heat. It is presented as a kind of frontier land, which Bianca Medeiros has criticised as a familiar genre setting for the Western and therefore comfortable viewing for the foreign viewer[11]. It is also possible however