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  • 1. 1
  • 2. A2 FILM STUDIES – SECTION A – URBAN STORIES: POWER, POVERTY & CONFLICT CASE STUDY – FOCUS FILM 2 Cidade de Deus (1995) Dir: Fernando Meirelles Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues Rocket Leandro Firmino Li’l Zé Phellipe Haagensen Benny Douglas Silva Li’l Dice Synopsis Set in a lawless slum in Rio De Janeiro, "City of God" tells the story of Rocket, an aspiring photographer looking for his big break so he can leave the treacherous area once and for all. The movie chronicles Rockets life as a young boy as he deals with his law bending brother andhis gang, all the way to his teen years as a pseudo hippie. As the crime level soars in brutality, Rocket begins torealize his niche as a photographer is his only means of staying honest. With a psychopathic thug named "Lil Ze"looking to take over the slum, Rockets career will take him on his most dangerous task of allCharactersThinking about the characters involved can be a good way to begin to understand any film. In City of Godthere are many characters. The key players are: Rocket Li’l Ze Benny 2
  • 3. In City of God we have a narrator, Rocket, who is also our central character. This is his story, the narrative of one young man who is exceptional in that he manages to escape from the slums. However, as a narrator he is also an observer of other people’s stories, a character with a privileged position from which he is able to watch domestic, familial, communal, social and even national narratives unfold. Although this film may be Rocket’s story, he is continually peripheral to, or on the edge of, a series of further narratives taking place around him. The status of being an observer fits well with his chosen profession of a photographer.TITLEBefore his eyes (and therefore before ours) human relationships involving short, energetic lives and brutaldeaths are played out against an essentially unchanging social backdrop of extreme poverty. And yet, althoughthe deprivation of the social environment remains constant, the nature of the slums is seen to change: the gangculture becomes increasingly violent as we move forward from the 1960’s, the weaponry increasingly high-powered, the drugs more potent and the gang members younger.How would you differentiate each of the key characters in City of God? List the characters and refer to specificscenes in order to illustrate your understanding of their characters.Compare your list with those arrived at by other students, if possible.Discuss any differences in the scenes chosen to illustrate specific characters and any related differences in theunderstanding of the characters.Remember that film is a visual medium and may ‘show’ us features of an individual character’s make-upthrough performance and/or carefully constructed shots rather than simply ‘telling’ us something throughdialogue. Would you agree that ROCKET is the central character? Would you see him as the ‘HERO’? (Propp), or would you see other characters as the main focus of the film? If, so which ones and why? How would you justify your choices? Would you see these characters as ‘heroes’ or ‘anti-heroes’? 3
  • 4. How would you characterise women in the film?The city and later the Favela’s are a place ofgendered violence. The City of God isrepresented as almost exclusively male,and women’s bodies simply provideanother site for men to carry outviolence against one another. The filmportrays women primarily as victims,such as Shorty’s wife.After her husband finds her with anotherman (who flees), he beats her with ashovel and then buries her alive. Therape of Ned’s girlfriend (who unnamed) isframed less as a complete act in itself,but as the instigation of violence,sparking off a full-scale gang war at thefilms conclusion. The strongest women ofthe film, Angelica and Bernice, attempt toreverse the power equation by using their sexual hold over the men, encouraging them to leave the gangs;they are unsuccessful. Both lose the man as a result of his escape attempts, making them both indirect victimsof the violence, and indirectly responsible for it.The few women in the film (like a Western, this is primarily a film about men) are presented as a civilisinginfluence, encouraging the men to leave the barbarism behind and choose a farm and family. Here, barbarismwins out, and the women are removed from the narrative once they have failed in their civilizing attempts. 1. Consider the representations of gender in more depth. What roles do men and women play in the film? Could these be seen as stereotypical male and female roles in film terms and/or in social terms? 2. Would you agree that women are peripheral to the narrative and unimportant in plot terms? Do men or women ‘drive’ the narrative? 3. Would you consider this to be a ‘male’ text? If so, what features make it so? Given the nature of the social context is this inevitable? 4
  • 5. Key ScenesThe opening of this film focuses upon a chickenand its attempts to escape the violent death thatalmost inevitably awaits it. The images are ofblood and instruments of death. The sounds arepiercing, threatening and ominous. Thesequences are of the chase, the pursuit and thedesperate attempt to escape. We conclude thissection of the film with the chicken beingreplaced by Rocket, positioned between twoequally threatening heavily armed groups: Ze’s gang from the slums The PoliceThe themes of the film and the nature of ourcentral character’s experience of life would seem tobe clear from the beginning. The importance offate or chance in determining outcomes wouldseem to be demonstrated: A random series of events and coincidences have led top Rocket (a ‘normal’ guy from the slums) being placed in a seemingly no-win situationCaught in the middle like the chicken, there seems no choice for most young boys from the Favelas. For most,like Steak, who in a later scene in the film is handed his first gun by the gang leader, Ze, there is only thechoice of who to kill in order to prove his manhood. Decide on a list of six scenes (or sequences of scenes) to analyse in more detail If you are able to work with other people, debate the final list between yourselves and allocate one or two scenes to each person in the group Prepare presentations of your chosen scenes, highlighting the messages and values that you believe it is important to take from each and showing clearly how you feel elements of film construction are used to present these points. 5
  • 6. Social, Historical and Political Contextual IssuesSocial Conditions More than 6000 people, most of them from the Favelas were murdered in Rio de Janeiro in 2007. Rio’s wealth middle class live in a gated apartment blocks with private security in Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, in conditions that are in complete contrast to those of the hillside shanty towns. Police chiefs seem to be in no doubt that their job is to protect the status quo through control of the underprivileged (see ‘News From a Personal War’ documentary – City of God DVD extra) Throughout the 1980’s Brazil suffered chronic inflation and the country’s foreign debt was higher than that of any other developed nation There was a high birth rate and a migration of people into the city from rural areas during the 1980’s and these trends continued into the 1990’s.History & Politics The struggle between left-wing socialist/communist groups and right wing conservative forces stretch back into Brazil’s past, to the 1960’s and beyond. In 1961, the president, Joao Bechoir Marques Goulart, attempted to nationalise country’s oil refineries and limit profits going abroad but was deposed by the army. Military rule last until 1985 with opposition political parties being suppressed, civil liberties being curbed, and strict media censorship being enforced During the 1960’s political prisoners politicised other who were in gaol with them so that the crime organisation, the Comando Vermelhom, began to proclaim their enemy as the government, big business and the middle class. Also during the 1960’s Roman catholic priests began to criticise the government’s failure’s to help the poor.Meirelles seems to suggest in City of God that as one generation had replaced another since the 1960s thepolitical dimension to crime in the Favelas has now certainly lost so that all that is left is a ‘dog-eat-dog’world. This would be in line with the reading of the situation suggested in our second focus film Elite Squad(Padilha, 2008). 6
  • 7. Messages & ValuesEarly on in City of God when we are taken in flashback to the 1960’s,there is an innocence attached to the original gang, the ‘Tender Trio’, asthey hold up a lorry and distribute gas canisters to the localcommunity. But this sense of robbing from the rich (in the style ofRobin Hood) comes to an abrupt end just fifteen minutes in to the filmwith the murders in the brothel. By the end of the film, the youngchildren who are becoming gang members are not yet in to their teensbut are already sure of one thing: The Essential mantra is: “Kill: Be Respected!”The story of the Tender TrioThe cycle of one death (or set of events) leading to another is inescapable. Knockout Ned appears to startfrom a position that motivates the classical Hollywood Hero: Revenge!He puts forward a moral outlook which centres on the naive notion that nobody who is innocent should bekilled. Of course, he quickly becomes enmeshed in the unstoppable cycle of killings and ends up being killedby Otto, who ironically is motivated by the same sense of ‘Justice’ that had driven Knockout Ned (Revenge forthe death of his father at the hands of Ned).Shaggy and later Bene both want to leave the Favelas and their pasts behind them, and escape to the idyll of alittle farm in the country-side, but it is impossible. Even for the most cold blooded of killers like Ze, there is noescaping an early, violent death. Identify as many scenes as you can that convey the message of hopelessness for young men in the Favela. Analyse how the micro elements have been used to create meaning and what the scenes tell us about: Life in the Favelas Brazilian Society 7
  • 8. Examine the way in which the killings in the brothel are presented to the viewer. Why is this material filmed and edited in the way it is? What effects are the filmmakers attempting to have on the audience and how have specific techniques been used in order to try and achieve these effects? Choose two or three individual deaths (such as those of Shaggy, Bene, or Ze) and consider carefully the ways in which mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and sound have been used to create meaning for the audience and to generate specific responses from the audience in these scenesPerhaps the central relationship in the whole film comes to be that between Bene & Ze. It is important to askourselves how they are shown as being different and what reasons we are given for the differences betweenthem. We seem to know little or nothing about their backgrounds, their families, their homes or theirrelationships with relatives. Bene has become the leader of a brutal, drug-dealing gang controlling territorywithin the Favelas while, it seems, remaining a chilled ‘good’ guy, while by contrast Lil Ze has since hisyounger years become a psychotic killer.Both characters, it seems, are what they are because of theirindividual psychological make-up; essentially they have been born thisway. If we compare this with the characters from La Haine we find thatthe characters are given much more carefully delineated backgroundsthat create them as distinctive and plausible individuals. In City of Godthe only explanation we have for Ze’s nature is that he is too ugly toget a girlfriend, while there is no explanation at all as to how Bene hasemerged from the cycle of violence as a freewheeling hippy. 8
  • 9. How do the representations of the main characters influence our understanding and readings of La Haine and City of God? Compile a list of scenes that focus in some way or another on issues of deprivation and poverty in the slums. This could include scenes showing the middle-class experience of life and therefore highlighting contrasts with life in the slums.City of God shows the way in which it was only from the 1980;’s that cocaine came to replace marijuana as thedominant drug packaged and peddled by gangs in the slums (up until that point, cocaine has been seen as arich person’s drug of choice). It suggests that the drugs trade operates like any other business with the‘bosses’ controlling certain franchises and employing managers, assembly-line workers and delivery boys. Thefilm also exposes the involvement of arms dealers and the corruption of the police. But ultimately the film’spolitical and social analysis of the situation is really quite thin. If the attempt is to show how each individual isa product of the social environment in which they have to live, it ultimately fails because Ze is simply anembodiment of evil. By contrast, La Haine succeeds so powerfully because Hubert is clearly not evil or easilydismissed as simply ‘Bad’. 9
  • 10. National Cinema Vs. World Cinema• World Cinema – A term used to describe films and film industries from non-English speaking countries• National Cinema – A term used to describe films associated with a specific country• National Cinema is a significant factor in the contribution of a National Identity – for both home and foreign audiences• National Cinema focuses upon cultural and social issues of the country in which it was made• These films are then shown around the world offering foreign audiences (possibly) their only look at a society they might never otherwise view• As a result film has a significant impact on how we see foreign cultures – although this is not the only factor contributing to this, it is significant• Our understanding of National Cinema and its role in constructing National Identities is vital if we are to be successful in our exam• National Cinema is a tool filmmakers can use to portray what they feel is the real identify of a country• National Cinema usually challenges the Dominant Cultural Ideologies presented by Mainstream World Cinema• To many international audience Hugh Grant is seen as the quintessential English gent• But to English audiences, a character like Combo from This is England may be a more accurate and therefore, more appealing and relatable character• And this difference is crucial to our understanding of National VS. World Cinema 10
  • 11. Favela & Drug Wars• City of God’s realistic depiction of Rio’s slums challenges the established ‘Dominant Ideology’ reinforced by the Brazilian ruling class• As we have already identified• This tourism trailer paints a vibrant picture of Rio as it attempts to attract tourists and reinforce the ‘positive’ image of Rio• City of God offers an alternative depiction of Rio and challenges everything put forward by the ruling classes of Brazil• Favela is a Brazilian word meaning ‘Shanty Town’• The majority of Favelas have electricity but it is mostly tapped illegally from the public grid• Flavela’s are small, cramped and close together an made from a mix of materials ranging from brick to refuse (Garbage)• Flavela communities are plagued by sewage, crime and hygiene problems• Flavelas are found throughout Brazil in most mid-large sized cities• One in every four Cariocas (as Rio’s inhabitants are known) lives in a Favela• The Colombian cocaine trade has impacted Brazil and in turn, it’s Flavelas• Favelas tend to be ruled by Drug Lords• Regular shoot outs between traffickers and Police or other criminals are common place, as well as an assortment of other illegal activities• 40 Murders per 100,000 is extremely high it is believed that the rate in the Favelas is much higher• Traffickers ensure safety to the citizens in their areas through their actions and political connections• 11
  • 12. • They achieve this through building reciprocal relationships and respect, creating an environment in which critical segments of the local population feel safe, despite the ongoing high levels and violence and murders Favelas & The City of God• The best known Favelas are those in and around Rio De Janeiro• Rio’s peculiar urban geography has placed most of them up the hills that face the city’s seaside neighbourhoods and tourist spots• The geographical separation provides a dramatic illustration of the gap between wealthy and the poor• The Favelas are juxtaposed with the luxurious apartment buildings and mansions of Rio’s social elite• It is estimated that at least 19% of Rio’s population lives in Favelas• The neighbourhood of Cidade de Deus is located to the west of Rio in the borough of Jacarepaguá• The neighborhood was founded in 1966• Between 1960 – 1975 Rio made up the City state of Guanabara• During this time the government began systematically removing Favelas from the centre of Rio and resettled their inhabitants in the suburbs 12
  • 13. • Cidade de Deus (City of God), is technically not a real Favela, since it was originally a government-sponsored housing community designed to replace a Favela, which subsequently ran down and took on many of the very social features of Favelas it was intended to eradicate. 13
  • 14. Favelas in Pop CultureThe City of God and Favelas have been used many times in modern pop culture. As a result, the Favelas are as symbolic of Rio DeJaneiro as the famous beaches.Michael Jackson – “They Don’t Really Care About Us”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNJL6nfu__Q&ob=av2eCall of Duty – Modern Warefare 2https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ht7eyIhqQvM 14
  • 15. Representing the City • Representation is constructed through textual elements and informed by the context of a film’s production • You will need to give detailed consideration to the ways in which cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing and sound are combined to create a specific representation of the City of God Location, Location... The mise-en-scene of the cityThroughout the film the visual representation of the city changes in time. Use the points below to support any arguments you makeconcerning the environment in which out characters exist. • During the 1960’s ‘Tender Trio’ era the city is bathed in golden light and wide shots present a poor but content neighbourhood • Individual, one levelled houses fill the environment and represents the positive intentions of the City • Characters are seen swimming in a river enjoying their environment • During the 1970’s the landscape is filled with high rise tower blocks, creating a very intense and claustrophobic setting • It also demonstrates the radical transformation and degeneration of the city – however the is still golden and most scenes are set in the bright day time • As we move in to the early 1970’s the lighting slowly transitions to a cold blue tint • In the early 1980’s many more scenes are filmed at night • Flavelas have taken over and the cramped streets feel far more oppressive and dangerous • This change in visual style underscores the war between Lil Zee and Carrot • The mise-en-scene shows a city in decay with building collapsed and dead bodies littering the streets 15
  • 16. • Graffiti and gang posters litter the walls – a subtle touch that adds depth to the unseen gang wars • The final phase of the film returns to bright day light – a symbolic foreshadowing of Lil Zee’s deathBiography forFernando MeirellesDate of Birth9 November 1955, São Paulo, São Paulo, BrazilMini BiographyFernando Meirelles was born in a middle class family in São Paulo City, Brazil.He studied architecture at the university of São Paulo. At the same time he developed an interest in filmmaking.With a group of friends he started producing experimental videos. They won a huge number of awards inBrazilian film festivals. After that, the group formed a small independent company called Olhar Eletrônico.After working in independent television during nine years, in the eighties Meirelles gravitated towards publicityand commercials. He also became the director of a very popular childrens television show.In the early 90s, together with Paulo Morelli and Andrea Barata Ribeiro, he opened the O2 Filmes productioncompany. His first feature, in 1998, was the family film "Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura". His next feature,"Domésticas" (2001), exposed the invisible world of five Brazilian maids in São Paulo and their secret dreamsand desires.In 1997 he read the Brazilian best-seller "Cidade de Deus/City of God", written by Paulo Lins, and decided to turnit into a movie despite an intimidating story that involves more than 350 characters. Once the screenplay,written by Bráulio Mantovani, was ready, Meirelles gathered a crew mixed with professional technicians andinexperienced actors chosen between the youngsters living in the favelas surrounding Rio de Janeiro.The film was a huge success in Brazil and began to attract attention around the world after it screened at theCannes Film Festival in 2002. "Cidade de Deus/City of God" (2003) has won awards from film festivals andsocieties all over the world, as well as four 2004 Oscar nominations, including a Best Director for FernandoMeirelles. 16
  • 17. TriviaMember of the Juri of the 29th São Paulo International Film Festival, held in São Paulo, Brazil, from October 21stto November 3rd 2005.Founded the studio Olhar Eletrônico with a group of friends in the 80s.His father was a doctor.Has two sisters named Márcia and Silvinha.Has a son named Francisco "Kiko" Meirelles and a daughter named Carolina Meirelles.Married to a ballerina, Ciça.His favorite director is Paul Thomas Anderson.Personal QuotesIve always been very independent, Ive always produced my own things; I dont know how to share. A big studioinvests a lot of money, and they want control. Im not prepared for that yet.Harvey Weinstein liked "City of God" from the beginning. He didnt want to change anything. When the filmsrelease was done, he called me to say, "This film deserves more than it got, and were going to spend money anddo a campaign, and were gonna get nominations." From the business side, it was a bad experience, but I woulddo it again. I dont think I signed a good contract. I didnt really believe in the film. It was a low-budget Brazilianfilm in Portuguese -- what can a film like this do? Harvey liked the film more than I did. They paid exactly whatwas on the contract.Im going to do some big film at some point but not now. My ideal career would be to do what Pedro Almodovardoes (in Spain). Id like to make Brazilian films for international audiences that are not big-budget. This would bethe best.This is the part that I like most, in the process, is to edit and try to find the story. Sometimes you think you havea film, and then you change something and it becomes different. Its a wonderful job. Because it surprises you.I never stop working on a film. I cant help myself. 17
  • 18. If you do a film with a high budget, people want to control it. Marketing people tell you what to do, and whereto cut, so they can get their money back. I am more interested in doing smaller films that I can control.When you do a film, everything is related to point-of-view, to vision. When you have two characters in a dialog,emotion is expressed by the way people look at each other, through the eyes. Especially in the cut, the edit. Youusually cut when someone looks over. Film is all about point-of-view...Its much easier to shoot in English, [as it provides, at least, for] a decent budget so I can do what I have in mind.I really recommend you, Sunday morning if you have nothing to do, wake up in the morning, put [on] a blindfoldand stay til 4, 5 in the afternoon. Its really fantastic!" He explains: "Sound and smell is much enhanced, but alsoyour thoughts, because you cant read, you cant be distracted, so youre with yourself.An architect is somebody who really doesnt know how to build a building. [They need engineers, just asdirectors rely on writers and actors. What both architects and directors do bring is] a vision.[Blindness (2008)] is not about blind people, its about human nature, about people who have just gone blindwith no time for any adaptation. The only character whos really blind (Maury Chaykin) is completely adaptedand so efficient that hes able to control all the others. I never even thought that the film could hurt blindpeople, because thats not what it is about. I know some artists, scientists or businessmen that are blind andbrilliant in their jobs. We all know that.Where Are They Now(April 2008) Producing a Brazilian version of the Canadian cable series "Slings and Arrows" (2003) 18
  • 19. Fernando MeirellesCity of GodInterviewed by Tom DawsonHow hard was it to adapt such a sprawling novel for the screen?It was a big challenge. The book is about 600 pages and there are 250 characters but it has no real structure - itsvery episodic. The author Paulo Lins, who was raised in the City of God slums, presents a character and youfollow him for 20 pages. When he dies, you start following somebody else, and that carries on right until theend.We decided to split the film into three parts, each different from the other. In the first part the romanticcriminals come in and theres a warm atmosphere. In the second they have moved onto drug dealing, and thecamera movements are free and relaxed. Towards the end, war breaks out between the dealers and the imagesare chaotic and out of focus.Was it difficult to direct so many young non-professionals?No, it was easy to work with them because they were so enthusiastic about doing the film. They liked beingrespected and for people to listen to them and to applaud them. We auditioned 2000 kids from poor areas andchose 200. We spent six months working on improvising scenes. They ended up creating about 70% of thedialogue. They were so keen that they used to arrive at work an hour before shooting started.How was "City of God" received in Brazil given its controversial subject-matter?It was a huge success in Brazil and attracted 3.4 million spectators. It was more popular than "Star Wars" and"Minority Report". It moved from the cultural pages to the political pages - one of the presidential candidatesasked to see the film and talked about it in a speech. So teenage drug-dealing became an issue in the campaign.How did you approach the violence that is an important aspect of the film?I think the violence in the film is totally different to what you see in American movies from people like Tarantino.I tried to avoid graphic violence: we have only three sequences involving blood and in the rape sequence youdont see the rape. Even in the gang-war scene at the end, I had a voice-over talking about something else todistract the viewer. I used music throughout the film to create a distance from the action. 19
  • 20. Violence in The City of God: The Fantasy of the Omniscient Spectator Jennie Carlsten "A picture could change my life. But in the City of God,if our problems didnt matter. We were too farremoved." Theyou run away, they get you, and if you stay, they get youtoo." sense of exclusion is reinforced by the waythe filmKátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles City of God offers a variety circumscribes the city. By showing all the stories ofthe favela toof explanations for the violence it depicts, butultimately presents be interconnected, Meirelles conveys a self-enclosed communityviolence - within the city and within itscharacters -as something isolated from the outside world. Thepolice are the only figuresbeyond representation,comprehension, or escape. Motives are who enter and leave the favela at will. The journalists atsuggested, butshown to be insufficient to account for the level Rockets newspaper do not enterthe place they write about; it isand pervasiveness of violence. Alternatives to violence considered a no-go area forother Brazilians. When a touristarearticulated, only to be undermined. The formal enters the community, heis lost and must be guided, protectedstrategiesadopted by City of God are themselves violent, and returned to hishome. Similarly, the audience engageà withresisting easy synthesis or understanding. The film places the film as atourist and Meirelles functions as the guide whotheviewer in a removed spectatorship, suggesting a sense both points out the sights and offers protection by keepingofomniscience and control which proves, in the end, false. thespectator at a safe distance. The favela is on one level a defined space withThe Nature of the Violence specificgeography, straight rows of houses and repeated City of God is narrated by Rocket, a boy growing up in one locations.On another level, it is a landscape with violentof Rios favelas, slum towns that exist outside the laws and andincomprehensible qualities. In chase sequences,popular image of Rio. Through a disjointed, redoubling,and forexample, camera angles are repeatedly reversed,confusingmultilayered narrative, Rocket tells his constructedversion of the direction and space. The constantly movinghandheld camera isCity of God, built around the stories of itsgang leaders. Through combined with rapid editing to create asense of disorientation.constant acts of violence, of whichRocket is an observer and The dangers of the space areemphasized by seeminglyeventual participant, the youth ofthe favela are connected. While unmotivated camera movementsand unattached point of viewthe plot is driven by acts ofindividual violence, the film evokes a shots. Shots through gapsand from under objects arerange of violentforces, not confined to the corporeal violence of reminiscent of war footage andposition subjects as if snipermurderand gang assassination. targets, particularly in the latersegments of the film. By this time, Brazil, and Rio in particular, suffers from the area has become awar zone: "you got used to living inparticularlypervasive and institutionalized forms of violence: Vietnam," narratesRocket.gangwarfare, military brutality, and police corruption. Despite While the diegesis never really leaves the city, thehostile urbanitsnatural resources, Brazil is one of the most setting is set in opposition to a utopian rurallife by the fantasieseconomicallydivided countries in the world; a very small wealthy of the youth. Characters dream ofescaping the favela forclassexists quite separately from a large, poor, underclass. farmland, a desire which is never realized. The beach providesRaceand class are equated, so that whiteness has more to an isolated image of "picturepostcard" Rio, and is a place ofdowith wealth and status than with colour. The country is refuge for Rockets teenagegroovies, friends not (yet) involvedstilltrying to overcome its colonial and militarized histories andto in the gang violence.The swimming hole provides anothercreate a national identity, and national cinema, that represents a respite from theviolence of the city; even here, though, thehighly diverse population. Brazils contemporary national cinema camera workcreates a feeling of surveillance and threat. As afrequently deals with an"…urban reality that is centered in the veryyoung Rocket speaks of his hopelessness about a futureconcept of the takenfor granted violence that comes out of a inthe favela and his fear of getting shot, that fear ismanifested inpredatorycapitalism and so becomes a spectacle." (da Costa, a long shot of Rockets back, positioning himas if within a gun171)City of God is based on real events and figures; sight.adaptedfrom a largely biographical novel by Paulo Lins, the film The City of God is plagued by economic as well asphysicaluses mainly amateur actors, location shooting, andhandheld violence. Attempts by the poor to earn a living areobstructed bycamera work to convey a sense of realism.Meirelles has the system, as when Rocket is forced toabandon his fish, hisdiscussed the film as a criticism not only ofBrazilian society, but familys livelihood, on the side of theroad. Crime is, in the earlyglobal economic forces, saying that"no country is as unfair as segments of the film, shown asa direct response to poverty. Inthe world itself." (Gonzales) the first sequence, set inthe 1960s, the Tender Trio hold up a Since the Cinema Novo of the 1960s, following onGlauber gas truck, Robin Hood style, and give the gas to the poor of theRochas "aesthetic of hunger", violence in all itsforms has driven neighbourhood; they also give money to the smaller boysand toand defined Brazilian cinema. City of Godpromotes no overt their families. For these three, crime is viewed as a means ofpolitical agenda, but in its depiction ofpoverty and exclusion, escape, and is treated humourously andsympathetically.refers to the economic and culturalviolence of Brazilian society.This is effectivelyaccomplished through the representation ofthe city as a site of violence. As the title suggests, the film is asmuchabout the geographical place, the favela, as any ofitsoccupants. At the start, Rockets voiceover explains theoriginof the favela, created when flooding and unrest drovethe poorout of Rios inner city. Rocket also expresses thesense ofabandonment and alienation of the residents: "For the powerful 20
  • 21. The favela is also a site of gendered violence. The Cityof shadow. Rockets control over the image isliteral. Lil Zes gangGod is represented as almost exclusively male, andwomens cannot work the camera, and do notunderstand even that thebodies simply provide another site for the men tocarry out film must be developed before itcan be seen, emphasizing theviolence against one another. Meirelles includeswomen gulf of understanding (andwith understanding, power) betweenprimarily as victims, such as Shortys wife. After herhusband those who are photographed and those who do thecatches her with another man (who flees), hebeats her with a photographing. Hisamateur photography becomes the proof ofshovel, and then buries her alive. The rapeof Neds girlfriend status thatallows Rocket safe passage and a measure of(also unnamed) is framed less as acomplete act in itself, but as respect;while the other characters are perpetually armedthe instigation of violence,sparking off the full-scale gang war at withconventional weaponry, Rocket is protected by his camera.the films conclusion.The strongest women of the film, Angelica The camera/gun analogy is most explicit in the finalstandoff.and Bernice,attempt to reverse this power equation by using Surrounded by Lil Zes heavily armed gang andthe police,theirsexual hold over the men, encouraging them to leave Rocket stands frozen as the camera circlesaround him. Thethegangs; they are unsuccessful. Both lose the man as aresult police leave and the gang clamours for aphoto. The soundof his escape attempts, making them both indirectvictims of the recedes and the camera continues tocircle as Rocket isviolence, and indirectly responsible for it. paralysed by indecision, perhapsconsidering the act of violence The favela is regulated both by the official police and,more he is about t o commit.Finally he points his own camera at theeffectively, by the gangs. Under the powerful Lil Ze,the slum gang and, as theshutter clicks, blood spurts from the chest of aexperiences a period of relative peace andsecurity. Lil Zes gangmember. Off-screen, Neds gang has arrived, andviolence is used to control the passionsand impulses of the thegunfight begins. The editing of the sequence suggestssociety. In this way, the gang leaderembodies the power of the notonly that Rocket survives by shooting the others, but thathestate and its often brutal policiestowards the underclass. In one is directly responsible for the deaths of those shot byreal bullets.scene, Lil Ze forces a stranger to strip in front of a crowd, Rocket photographs the rest of the battle,largely filmed asengaging in a differentsort of violence, one that evokes the use though through the lens of his camera.The sound and dialogueof authoritarian humiliation and sexual degradation for social add to the suggestion that Rocketis an active participant in thecontrol, andalso makes a spectacle of the victims pain. The violence: gunfire accompanieshis own shooting, and a voiceofficialpolice, meanwhile, are shown to be corrupt; in every shouts "Kill one of thosefaggots! Blast him!" as he focuses.scenein which they appear, the police take bribes from, Meanwhile, the erratichandheld camera reminds the audience ofstealfrom, or kill the men of the City of God. In one scene, astwo the presence ofyet another photographer, the filmmaker. Theof the Tender Trio hide in the trees after a robbery, twoofficers violent use ofRockets camera is of course analogous to the useargue over how to treat the criminals. One wants tosteal the of thecamera by Meirelles, who is arguably engaging inloot; after all, the youth are only "niggers andthieves"; the other violencehimself by exploiting the lives of his subjects andwants simply to "exterminate" the men.This dialogue, coupled glamourizing Rios carnage. It is further analogous to thenaturewith the image of the men huddledprimitively in the tree of media representation in general, and raisesquestions aboutbranches, calls attention to the way inwhich they have been media responsibility in the society of thespectacle.dehumanized by the state and by thediscourse of the media.There is no justice system withinthe favela; the police act Understanding the Violenceapparently on impulse. Shaggy, amember of the Tender Trio, is The City of God is filled with violent characters; in fact,it is fair topursued and killed on onlythe word of another criminal, who has say that the characters are defined by theirrelationship tojust been arrested forthe murder of his own wife. The systemic violence. The film has multiple protagonists,and they remainviolence of thestate, and the fatalism with which it is accepted, psychologically under-developed. Thisshould not be read as ais mostevident in the films ending. Although Rocket failure of the film, but an intentional and successful effort totakesincriminating photographs of the police, he doesnt use create a story that is about thenature of violence itself.thephotos, knowing that the paper wouldnt run them or thattherepercussions would be too great. Rocket and his camera represent yet another strainofviolence that pervades the City of God: scopic violence. Inherdiscussion of another Brazilian film, A Grande Arte, MariaHelena Braga e Vaz da Costa characterizes thephotographer ofthat film as a passive figure, one wholooks from afar rather thanengaging: photography "keepssubject and spectator at adistance, it offers intimacy without risk." (da Costa, 178) In daCostas view, a photographer protagonist is only a spectator oftheviolence, comparable to the viewer, not a part ofthespectacle. Rockets use of the camera, though, isquiteclearly equated with violence. As a teenager, Rocketuseshis photographs the way his associates use theirownweapons; to gain status within his gang of groovies andtopursue his love interest, Angelica (who is interested notinRocket, but in his ability to make her appear beautiful).Rocketuses the camera to obliterate his rival, Tiago,composing hispictures and directing his subjects so as tothrow Tiago into 21
  • 22. Rather than everything providing an excuse for war,Rocket tells us "war was an excuse for everything." As thegang war between LilZe and Knockout Ned escalates,boys come to the leaders asking for guns. Each has his own agenda and pretext for violence, be itrevenge,protection, or a desire for respect. The montage -quicklyedited medium close-ups of very young boys, each with a one-sentencerequest -presents a litany of justification,fading into a slow-motion sequence of distorted sound andimages of random corpses. Meirelles does not legitimize violence (by showing itsnecessity or efficacy, for instance, or by using it as anarrative solution to e vil anddisorder), but neither does hecondemn violence. The film in fact suggests that violencedefies not only representation, but alsoexplanation.Motives are suggested - evilness, vengeance, territorialism,animal instinct, initiation, and self-definition -but none seemadequate to explain the omnipresence of violence inthe favela. This in turn undermines the audiences ability tomange or account for whatGomel calls the "excess" ofviolence, that quality of violence which exceeds instrumentality and cannot be explained as a response, butonlyas a conscious action. (Gomel, xv) City of God borrows certain conventions of the Western to suggest the theme of the frontier, and violenceis, in part, framed by thisfrontier sensibility. The dusty,brown streets and buildings of the favela bring to mind theWestern town. Those streets become the locus ofshoot-outs framed as Western duels. The hold-up of the gastruck, already mentioned, is coded as a stagecoachrobbery: the three men pullbandannas over their faces,wield pistols, and ambush the vehicle - all that is missing isthe horses. It has been suggested that the newBraziliancinema is characterized by a tension between barbarismand civilization, a tension historically located in theWestern, and thischaracterization seems very applicable to City of God. The few women in the film (like a Western,this is primarily a film abo ut men) arepresented as acivilizing influence, encouraging the men to leave thebarbarism behind and choose a farm and family. Here,barbarism winsout, and the women are removed from the narrative once they have failed in their civilizing attempts. Western style vengeance is presented as a motivatorfor much of the films violence. The cyclical nature ofrevenge is emphasized:each killing sparks another, almostto the point of narrative absurdity, and the connections arenot always immediately explain ed.Vengeance is thejustification that the characters themselves express,offering revenge as a moral absolute. Knockout Ned, whoappearsfirst as a potential role model who espouses"peace and love", is driven to an act of revenge by the rapeof his girlfriend and the attack of hishomestead and family.Audience expectations of the Western hero (like the goodman turned vigilante found in so many action films)maylead viewers to sympathize with Ned, judging his violenceas less excessive than Lil Zes. Meirelles problematizesthis identification byshowing the escalating nature of Nedsviolence. At first, Ned is opposed to taking "innocent" lives;he insists that he is not a hoodlum, but aseeker of vengeance. After a couple of necessary killings duringrobberies, "the exception becomes the rule", as Rocket tells us, and Nedbecomes indiscriminate in his killing.Apparently, Ned has found in violence not only an instrument, but a source of pleasure.The film suggests that violence is also motivated byterritorial instincts. Unlike the (flawed) Western ideal of landfor the taking, territory in thefavela is contested. One segment of the film, The Story of the Apartment, interruptsthe ongoing narrative to detail the way the spacehaschanged hands, each occupant being violently forced outby his or her successor. Bennys farewell party is an act oftransgression, inthat he brings together (unnaturally, it issuggested) groups from different areas of the favela as well as from different soc ial groups: thereligious, the sambafollowers, the jazz lovers, the hippies, and the rival gangs.Bennys attempt at blurring the rigid class and socialdivisionsbrings all Brazilians together in what at first seemsa carnivalesque utopia, but instead ends tragically with hisdeath. As L il Ze cries overBennys body, the crowdsdisappear, presumably returning to their own territory andisolated experiences.The story of the apartment points to other aspects of the favelas violence: its animalistic, generational qualities.In the s ociety of the City ofGod, the young and strongdisplace the old(er) and weak(er). This is presented as anaccepted way of life. One of the Runts, aprepubescentgang, complains about the natural order of the system:"…you have to wait for some older guy to croak before youcan moveup." The structure of the narrative mirrors thiscycle of life; the Tender Trio of the 1960s are the subjectsof the first segments; each isreplaced by an analogousmember of the next generation. The audience knows, forexample, that Benny and Angelica will not escape totheirfarm as planned, because it has already seen their storyunfold through the narrative of Shaggy and Bernice. Violence defines manhood and initiates the youngboys into adult life. As one of the Runts says, "I smoke, Isnort. Ive killed androbbed. Im a man." (Later, this Runt isshot and killed himself.) One of the most emotionallycompelling scenes in the film involves theritualistic initiation of SteaknFries, a Runt, into Lil Zes gang. Theboy is told to choose where two other children (not muchmore thantoddlers) will be shot, in the hand or in the foot.SteaknFries chooses the hand; the gunman disregards hisdecision and shoots each boy inthe foot. Next, SteaknFries is told to choose and kill one of the two children. His hesitation and distraught expression are atodds with themanner in which violent perpetrators areshown in the rest of the film: clearly, this killer is taking nopleasure in the act. SteaknFrieschooses to spare,incidentally, the child that shows no discernable emotion,and kills the one who sobs like a baby: this is only oneexampleof the way in which the narrative punishessentiment and implicitly advocates an emotional distance.The shooting of the childrens feet isthe only instance ofgraphic, causally linked gun violence in the film; the vieweractually sees the bullet, in close-up, enter the flesh.WhenSteaknFries takes the gun, on the other hand, the shot is filmed from over his shoulder, as an observer present mightsee it. Theaudience does not see the shooting, only thefalling body. At the critical moment of the boystransformation into killer and man, the spectatoris deprivedboth of the spectacle of the body and the spectacle of thekiller. The body is shown, poorly focused, in a long takeasSteaknFries is told "Now, youre one of us." 22
  • 23. The uncertainty the film expresses towards thejustification of violence is most profound in its treatment ofLil Ze. While a variety ofinstrumental motives are offeredfor the violence done by others, Lil Ze seems unique in hispure enjoyment of violence. A simple readingmightsuggest that Lil Ze uses violence to attain power andmoney (he is made rich by his first major act) or out of self -preservation (theelimination of his enemies), but Meirellesseems to be suggesting something more excessive. Thechild Lil Ze (then known as Lil Dice)accompanies theTender Trio in a robbery, but escalates the violence into aslaughter; he does so not as an act of initiation ( at first, theTriodoesnt even know he has done it, nor does the audience) but because he wants to. Lil Zes renamingceremony, in which he receives anamulet from an Umbanda priest, casts his violence as both primal andtranscendent. Lil Ze is coded as "evil" in a way others are not; nosocio-economic or developmental forces can account for the extremity and irrationality of his actions. The film shifts between stories and perspectives; whileRocket narrates and orders the events of the film, the camera is not fixed in itsorientation. At times, the camera will adopt the perspectives of other characters, or, morecommonly, that of a distanced observer. Theadoption ofLil Zes perspective, at Bennys farewell party, is interestingin that it actually encourages a more sympathetic view ofLil Ze as"human", casting doubt on the mythological statusthe film has created around him. Perhaps, after all, he isnot evil as we have been led tobelieve, but simply a youthdriven by feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It is aproblem that Meirelles never fully resolves. The violencethatleads directly to Bennys murder is sparked by Lil Zeshuman emotions: a sense of betrayal at Bennysdeparture, fear of being alone, hisown failure to attract awoman. The battle with Ned is explained in these terms byRocket: "The problem was simple: Lil Ze was ugly,Nedwas handsome." These attempts at providing psychologicalexplanations for Lil Zes actions -coming more than halfway through the film -introduce alevel of ambiguity.The viewer may want to accept these explanations, whichseem to offer a framework for making sense ofotherwiseinexplicable horrors. On the other hand, these explanationsremain unconvincing given the earlier characterization of Lil Ze andthe nihilism of the film as a whole. This ambiguity not only provokes confusion about the nature ofviolence, it also points to the constructednature of narrative, reminding the viewer that s/he is watching oneversion of events. The same events, had they beennarrated by Lil Zerather than by Rocket, would composean entirely different story. The use of voice-over narrationand an episodic narrative structure, ratherthan encouraging the viewer to simply accept Rockets perspective, is used to raise questions about the viewersown relations hip to theviolence onscreen.Complicity and silence surround the violence of thefavela. The residents protect their own, though this seemsdue less to any loyalty than toa fear of repercussion. Afterthe Tender Trios brothel robbery, they are protected fromthe police first by the bar patrons wh o witness theirescapeand later by the entire community. Police raid begin, andRocket claims that "Every day someone got beaten,someone was nailed.But no one talked." This silence also extends to the viewer, whose own complicity in the violenceparallels that onscreen. Lik e theintimidated residents of theCity of God, the viewer watches, and participates in theviolence by watching, but does not intercede. Thephotographs Rocket provides to the newspaper are imagesof spectacle framed for those who are too afraid to experience the vio lencefirsthand. Our own pleasure inframed images of violence is made suspect. The audienceis reminded not only of the transgressive power oflooking,but also of its complicity in creating the conditions ofviolence. In her book Disappearing Acts, Diana Taylordiscusses the role of thespectator in another militarizedLatin American nation, Argentina. Taylor discusses thenotion of percepticide and how violent spectacle canmake"people pull back in fear, denial, and tacit complicity fromthe show of force. Therein lay its power." (Taylor, 123)Taylor also explainshow being compelled to watch violence, while unable to prevent it, disempowers theviewer. Any sense that the viewer has contr ol overthenarrative of City of God is undermined by the filmsreversals and restrictions; rather than godlike omniscience,the film engendersuncertainty, helplessness and complicity.Alternatives to ViolenceThe film offers little comfort to viewers uncomfortable with their own complicity in the on-screen violence, or thoseseeking a ray of hope inthe narrative. Meirelles introducesalternatives to violence, only to then dismiss or disempowerthose alternatives. City of God breaks withaudience expectations by presenting no viable moral choice. Theallegory of the chickens dilemma -"if you run away theyget you and if youstay they get you too" -illustrates the films fatalism, a fatalism that is not only ascribed to Rocket,but impressed upon the viewer throughoutthe film. Theillusion of escape through sports, education, work, religionor even art is destroyed. One of the earliest scenes in the film shows the boysplaying football. As reviewer Kristian Lin points out, footballhas frequentlyrepresented a way out for poor Brazilians. Itis a huge part of both national identity and popular globalimage and the myth of thediscovered athlete is evoked bythis sequence of the film. (Lin, 1) That myth is quicklydiscarded, however. One of the Tender Trio shootsthe ball, ending the game and visually eliminating, with the freezeframe of the punctured ball, the dream of escape throughathletic success.A similar myth holds that education canprovide alternatives to violence. Throughout the film, in fact, the boys are told (most often by theirvictims) to stopcommitting crimes and study. The story of Knockout Ned atfirst appears to be a moral tale on the power of education,but thetale unfolds very differently. Ned got an education,did military service, and holds a job. Yet he is not onlyunable to avoid being victimized,he ends up embracingviolence as the chief rival to Lil Ze. 23
  • 24. The story of the Tender Trio, the first episode of thefilm, can be read as a fatalistic commentary on the optionsfor young men in thefavela. The tale ends with the boyssplitting up and choosing different paths. Goose chooses togo to work, taking a fishmonger job with hisfather. Hardwork, though, is not the answer here either. Selling fishleads him to an affair which ultimately results in thewomans murder andGooses own death at the hands of Lil Dice (later Lil Ze). Rocket himself concludes that "workis for suckers" when his own attempts atemployment arethwarted by the ongoing violence of the gangs. Workersare presented as little more than targets in City of God; not only"suckers", but unlikely to survive, and the workplace isthe constant target -both intentional and accidental -of robbery and gunfire. Nedrefuses to give a gun to oneyouth who wishes to join the gang, saying that he is aworker and "wont last a week". The suggest ion is thatworkwill not protect one from violence, but expose one tovictimization. The second of the Trio, Shaggy, attempts a moreliteral form of escape. Shaggy, and later Benny, plan ondropping out of society to liveon a farm, sleep with theirgirlfriends, and smoke dope. As Angelica says to Benny,"this violence sucks." Both Shaggy and Benny are killedonthe verge of escaping, Shaggy by police and Benny by oneof his own gang associates. The final member of the Trio, Clipper, turns to religionafter he has a bizarre vision. Reciting a prayer, Clipperwalks right past the policewho are looking for him; theyimmediately pursue and kill an innocent bystander instead.After this conversion and brush with the law,Clipper simplyvanishes -whether disappearing from the narrative is theultimate escape or the ultimate death is difficult to say. Thevisionitself is an idiosyncrasy, a single unexplainedmoment of surrealism in a film otherwise rooted in realityand hyper reality. T here is somesupport for the notion ofreligion as an alternative to violence, although the filmsfailure to follow up on Clippers story underminesthissupport. Too, there is another, darker and violent, aspect toreligion. Lil Ze is a follower of Umbanda and his power andlife-force arelinked to an amulet. When Lil Ze ignores theadvice of the Umbanda priest (raping a woman whilewearing the amulet), he is killed, just asthe priest warned.Carrot and Ned also call upon God to assist them - "Theresa war on, lets start with a prayer" -and wear amulets(crucifixes) of their own. Over a montage of gunfire andweaponry, the gang recites the Our Father. Religion is not,in these cases, anescape from but an aid to violence. An optimistic viewer might assume that art will providean alternative, that Rockets photography will be his ticketout. To some extentthis is true, as Rocket attains a job atthe newspaper and so is able to leave the favela each day (although even at the newspaper, his onlyinteraction atfirst is with another exile from the City of God.) After hisphotos are accidentally placed in the newspaper, Rocket isacceptedby others at the newspaper, and even has hisfirst sexual experience with a journalist there. Thenewspaper is thrilled with Rocketsphotographs, whichbring the spectacle of the favela into the lives of other Brazilians. The cost of this (partial and problematic)arrival,however, is that Rocket now feels he cannot return to the City of God. Rocket assumes that his photographs are adeath sentence,but in fact the gangsters are willingparticipants in the spectacle. Lil Ze recognizes the powerof the media in creating his image as "Boss",and demandsmore photographs. Each side of the equation exploits theother, while Rocket, the maker and seller of images,exploi ts both.Ironically, though, Rockets success comesfrom returning to the City of God. His ability to produce andframe its images for outsiders meansthat Rocket is dependent upon violence for his livelihood.Controlling the ViolenceSome critics of City of God have found fault with its approach to violence, particularly with the lack of empathyit generates for its charactersand victims. Joanne Laurier,for instance, complains that the film treats its subjects with"too much detachment…the characters are for themost part seen as though from a distance…the all-dominatingviolence is all too passively presented…as a result, the filmfails to generatemuch sympathy for its victims - not a minorweakness." (Laurier) This distance is not only an emotionalaffect, as Laurier observes, but acritical visual strategy.The use of long shots and off-screen space prevents theaudience from seeing much of the violence, and deprivestheviewer of the catharsis that may be produced by seeinga violent act carried to its conclusion. Much of the bodilyviolence in the film isimplied. In an interview, Meirellessays that this was a conscious choice: "Every time I had anopportunity to show violence I tried to avoidshowing it..."(Gonzalez) The effect can be equated to Brechtian distanciation; rather than empathizing, the audience isasked to evaluate.Rather than trying to show the audiencethe reality, the audience is asked to imagine it. To furtherproblematize viewer response, events arefrequentlypresented from an opposing or uncertain point of view. Therape of Neds girlfriend, for instance, is filmed not fromNedsperspective but from that of a bystander or observerlooking over his shoulder. This positions the viewer not toidentify with the subject, butoutside the subject. A typical sequence that employs the use of off-screenspace to distance and unsettle the viewer is Shortysmurder of his wife. A longshot frames a view through thebedroom doorway; Shorty wields a shovel and attacks hiswife, but the composition excludes the woman andtheviewer must imagine the contact of the shovel to her body.In the next scene, the shot composition is the same, butnow Shorty is seendigging; the hole (or grave) is stillexcluded from the composition. A similar technique is usedin the sequence that reveals Lil Dicesmurders at themotel. The audience has already seen the victims in an earlier sequence (discussed below); now, they are notshown.Instead, the viewer sees only Lil Dice, his weapon,and his expression of ecstasy. 24
  • 25. This strategy creates an unsettling effect. The viewer isconstructed as not only complicit, but morally suspect,simultaneously wantingto see more and responding less. Ifthe photographer of the images is committing an act ofviolence, so is the audience that looks at anddemands those images. In fact, bodies, the site of so much violence in City of God, are not dwelt upon. Throughout most of the film, theyare treated withalternating casualness and calculation. Theaudience sees bodies falling, or lying on the ground, butthe editing is rapid and generally cutsimmediately away.The audience doesnt see the blood or tearing of flesh thatwe assume must accompany events. There are three scenes,however, which significantly reverse this technique, presenting and dwelling upon stylized tableauxof disfigured bodies. The first of these isthe original sceneof the motel massacre. The scene is silent as the camera slowly pans across rooms of bodies, arranged in stiff,unnaturalpositions; one woman hangs from a grill asthough on a torture rack. In the second of these scenes,the montage that precedes t he gangwar, the bloody bodiesof children slowly dissolve into other bodies, overlapped bydistorted dialogue. In the final tableau, at the filmsconclusion, the camera cuts from one dead gang memberto another, close-ups showing the blood, brains andshattered bodies. This sceneis also silent, slowing downand contrasting sharply with the chaotic and kineticshootout that precedes it. These reversals of tone, like the shifts from comedic to horrific, contribute to the violence of the films form. Through its pervasiveness,violence in City of Godbecomes naturalized. Violence is not presented as a disruptive element in the social narrative but as a unifyingmotifthat propels and connects the individual stories.Violence is the organizing principle of the film, which is fullof interruptions, ruptures, andnarrative reversals. Thisviolence of form speaks to the films tension between thehyper-real and the poetic, the postmodern and theradical.City of God possesses the markers of the postmodern filmin its "disjointed narratives, rapid and chaotic camera,speedy flow ofimages, motifs of chaos… [and] dystopicscenarios". (Boggs, 361) But it also insists on being read asa (neo)neorealist and radical Braziliantext in the traditionsof de Sica, Rocha and Brecht. According to Baudrillard, the only means of resistanceto the hyper-real is to refuse to resist, rather than claiminga subject position,"reflecting meaning without absorbing it".(Baudrillard, 85) City of God offers a subject position, thatof the spectator who c ontrols the gazeand the narrative,but challenges and erodes that position through violence,causing the spectator to question the nature of violen ce,image-making, and responsibility.Works Cited Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Boggs, Carl. "Postmodernism the Movie." New PoliticalScience 23.3 (2001): 351-70. da Costa, Maria Helena Braga e Vaz. "Representation andNational Identity in Rio De Janeiro: Walter Salles, Jr.s,A Grande Art e." Studies in Latin American PopularCulture 21 (2002): 165-84. French, Philip. "The Gangs All Here." Film Review. TheObserver January 5 2003. Gomel, Elana. Bloodscripts: Writing the Violent Subject.The Theory and Interpretation of Narrative Series.Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2003. Gonzalez, Ed. Interview with Fernando Meirelles. 2003. Slant Magazine. Available: http://www.slantmagazine.com/. 2 April 2004. Guillermoprieto, Alma. The Heart That Bleeds: LatinAmerica Now. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Laurier, Joanne. "Sincere, but Avoiding Difficult Questions".3 March 2004. World Socialist Web Site. Available: http://www.wsws.org. 19 April 2004. Lin, Kristian. "Dead End Kids". 3 April 2003. Fort WorthWeekly. Available: http://www.fwweekly.com. 2 April2004. Muro-Ruiz, Diego. "The Logic of Violence." Politics 22.2(2002): 109-17. Prince, Stephen. Screening Violence. Rutgers Depth ofField Series. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UniversityPress, 2000. Smith, Paul Julian. "City of God." Sight and Sound January2003. Stam, Robert, and Randal Johnson, eds. Brazilian Cinema. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982. Taylor, Diana. Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Genderand Nationalism in Argentinas "Dirty War". Durhamand London: Duke University Press, 1997. 25