Lil Ze, Knock Out Ned. Goose, Shaggy, Shorty and Wife, The Hotel, Steak and Chips, Police officer and arms dealer, Otto’s Dad, Knockout Neds family.
Summary of urban stories 2014
Power, Poverty & Conflict
• A culture dominated by a more powerful ideology.
• A portrait of a culture in a particular place at crucial
time of development.
• An inability for sustained romantic alliances due to
social conditions and upbringing.
• A feeling of social or cultural insignificance.
• A descent into violence, drug use, crime, alcoholism or
• Conflicts arising as a result of social and/or cultural
• Societies lacking in identity due to Western Globalisation
(influence of America)
Context of time and place:
Representation of the city:
The city as a character in itself
Influence of the urban environment on the characters
Representation of Power:
Physical / Authority / Power / Gender / Social Class
Money / Family
Representation of Poverty:
Material / Emotional / Education / Opportunity
Representation of Conflict:
Physical / Psychological (of the mind!) / Emotional /
Material / Social & Cultural / Family & relationships
La Haine (1995) is set in the 1990s and the protagonists live in ‘les
banlieues’ (housing estates) on the outskirts of Paris. It also deals with
police brutality, racism and civil unrest. It opens with immediate context:
real footage of the riots that regularly took place between youths and
police between 1986 and 1996 (and were continuing during filming).
The director, Mathieu Kassovitz, has often stated that he was inspired
to write the film when he heard the story of: a young Zairian, Makome
M’Bowole [who] was shot in 1993. He was killed at point blank range
while in police custody and handcuffed to a radiator.
Messages and Values
•Multiculturalism and ethnicity within modern French
society is clearly explored throughout the film. Examples of
this are the posters in Hubert’s room and the song ‘burnin
and lootin’, which links directly to ideas of black uprisings
and by that fact that each of our central characters is from
a different ethnicity
•A positive outlook is that the three friends are all of mixed
ethnicity and within the youth culture the separate
ethnicities are shown as evolving into a vibrant hybrid of
cultural fusion and unity. It is only in the centre of Paris that
this unity is missing
Vinz: From a
Said: Arab African- French
•Drawn together by their shared youth culture, their
difference in ethnic origin seems unimportant to them: But
each character is shown to be very aware of the ways in
which others in France might look at his ethnicity.
•For example, because he is ‘white’, it is Vinz who is given
the task of attempting to gain entry to the middle-class
block of flats where they hope to meet ‘Asterix’.
What other ways could you differentiate between the three
Discuss the above question in
pairs. Make sure you can refer to
specific scenes in order to
illustrate your point.
Key Scenes: Interview attempt
When the TV news crew are attempting to interview the
three main protagonists about the previous nights riot,
they literally ‘look down on’ the three friends.
What does this suggest about how they are viewed within
Why do you think the news crew approached them?
What does this suggest about the attitudes of white
French people towards non white French?
Key Scenes: DJ scene
The DJ using his decks to blast out an anti-police message
in a scene which is filmed and edited in such a way as to
convey the sense of momentary freedom, escape or
Why do you think it was important to include this scene?
Representations - Males
Young men from ethnic minorities are the main social
group represented in the film. The American ‘hood’ film
sub-genre often has a character that is trying to reject a
life of crime and escape the trappings of the ‘hood’ in
which he lives.
Hubert conforms to this archetype, and rejects crime as a way of
life. He tries to fight against taking violence as a means to integrate
into society and earn a living (Poverty). His friends Vinz & Said
take different approaches to their social situation (Conflict). The film
can be seen as debate about the way to deal with issues above and
beyond their control (Power).
Hubert rejects the rioting of the other youths on his estate. He runs a gym that
he worked hard to get a grant for, and promotes boxing as a sport for young
people to get involved in. The audience first meets him in the ruined gym after
the rioters have trashed and burnt it in the previous night’s riots. The film ends
with Hubert sucked in to potentially committing the murder of a police officer
(or being murdered himself) as retaliation for the shooting of his friend.
Characters who try to escape the ghetto life are often stopped from doing so by
circumstances out of their control – or even by death (something explored in
other Urban Stories).
La Haine- Other Messages?
• What is the film’s message? Consider it from an ideological
standpoint, thinking about class, ethnicity and France as a
• The masses rising up and revolting against the dominant
ideology? Power to the people?
• The working classes being kept in their place by the ruling
• Immigration doesn’t work?
• France should take greater care of its colonial cousins?
• Does the film have an overt or covert message?
City of god: Context and plot
Directors: Fernando Mierelles and Catia Lund
Year of release: 2002
Stars: Alexandre Rodrigez, Matheus Nachtergaele and
All the characters existed in reality, and the story is
based on real events.
City of god: Plot and context
• It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus
(City of God) suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the
'60s and the beginning of the '80s, with the closure of the film
depicting the war between the drug dealer Li'l Zé and criminal
• The tagline is "If you run the beast catches, if you stay the beast
eats,“ Which is a theme that runs throughout the film. The idea
that if you are born into the city of god, you are expected to
stay and become a hood. (This is an idea that is also explored
with the film La Haine ).
City of God: Plot and context
• The cast includes Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Jonathan
Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga and Seu Jorge. Most of the actors
were, in fact, residents of ghettos such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus
(City of god) itself.
• What is the advantage of having actors who are from the Ghetto’s of Rio
• Do you think that this gives City of God an advantage over more
Key scenes: Opening scene
• The opening to the film focuses on a chicken and its attempt to
escape the violent death that is almost inevitably awaits it.
• The images that flash up within the scene are of blood and
instruments of death, which also help to suggest that the chicken
is going to be killed by the group chasing it.
• The scene is also accompanied by piercing and threatening
sounds, which add a almost tense atmosphere as the chicken is
desperate to escape the chase.
Key scenes: Opening scene
• The chicken trying to escape can be seen as a representation of some of the
‘hood’s’ living in the ghetto.
• The chicken is then replaced with the character Rocket, who is then stuck
between two equally threatening parties (the hoods and the
police), representing him as a character who wants to escape from the lifestyle
associated with being a hood.
• The opening scene is taken from a scene at the end of the story, but is used as a
point for all the previous stories of the slums to amount to.
• This shows that this scene is key to the story of ‘city of god’ and is almost seen
as the make or break moment for Rocket- should he take his opportunity to be
a photographer or join Lil Ze’s gang?
Key scenes: Benny’s death
One of the pivotal moments within the film is when Benny is killed at the club. Make a
spider diagram of reasons why this scene is so important, using examples.
Benny is seen
as a ‘cool
who is now
going to keep
Deaths also play an important role within the film and
are often used in pivotal ways that may change the
course of the film. Choose three deaths, other than
Benny’s, and create a mind map for each explaining there
significance within the film. Consider how the Mise-enscene, cinematography and sound used within the shots
are used to create meaning.
Other key scenes
Other than the opening scene and Benny’s death, what
are some other key scenes within the film? Devise a list
of what scenes you believe are important within the film
and why. How could you compare them to La Haine
E.G. The hotel scene when we realise ‘lil dice’ has killed all
the people, many of whom live in the slums as well. This is
the moment we realise his character is going to be ruthless
and a rebel throughout the film and also allows us to
understand how young some of the hoods are when they
begin to kill. In La Haine there is no evidence of violence
between members of the slum, their hatred (which is no
what near that of lil dice) is aimed out side the slums
Messages and values
• The scenes representing ‘City of God’ in the 60’s, show a much
more innocent side to the ‘hoods’. The ‘tender trio’, as they
hold up a lorry give the gas cylinders to members of city of
god (even thought there actions are wrong, they still are
thinking of the community).
• When they enter the brothel, the tender trio make a deal to
not kill anyone inside. Where as Lil Dice, who is representing
the next generation, kills everyone inside- this shows a
contrast and change within the ghettos between the 60’s and
• But, the problem is suggested to continue or escalate, as the
film is ended with the runts killing Lil Ze.
• This suggest a never ending circle of gang culture in city of
god, and again suggests that there is a stigma and stereotype
attached to those who are from the ghetto.
Messages and Values
• Knockout Ned’s character starts off as one that almost mirrors
the idea of a typical Hollywood western hero. Someone who is
seeking revenge in honour of his family. He first puts forward a
moral outlook which centres on the naïve notion that nobody
who is innocent should be killed.
• He quickly becomes deeply involved in the hood culture and
starts to kill for the sake of killing.
• He then becomes part of an unstoppable cycle where he is then
killed by Otto, who is driven by the same sense of ‘Justice’.
• This then highlights again the never ending circle of violence that
the residents of city of god experience. It suggests that there can
be no resolution or solution to the problems ever being sorted.
Benny and Ze
Arguably, the most central relationship within the film, is that of Benny and Ze.
Their characters are extremely different and it is important to question why they
have been represented as being so close yet so far from one another.
Benny and Ze
• We know little to nothing about the background of the two characters,
their home life or relationships with family.
• Benny has become a leader of a brutal, drug dealing gang controlling a
part of the city of god, yet he remains a ‘cool guy’. Contrasting with Ze,
also a leader, who is represented as a psychotic killer from the moment
we see him as a young child.
• In Benny’s death scene it is implied that Benny is really the only person
Ze has ever loved, giving a reason to why he now has nothing holding
him back in allowing the ghetto to become a war zone.
• Both characters it seems are what they are because of their individual
psychological make-up: essentially they have been born this way.
• If we compare this to La Haine, we find that the characters in that film
are given much more carefully chosen backgrounds, that make them
much more distinctive as individuals.
Benny and Ze
In City of God, the only explanation we have for Ze’s nature is that
he is too ugly to get a girlfriend, while there is no explanation at
all as to how Benny has emerged from the cycle of violence as a
• What was the purpose of using two opposing characters in
such a way? Discuss and make a list.
Social, historical and political context
• More than 6,000 people, most of them from the ghettos (favelas),
were murdered in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.
• Rio’s wealthy middle class lived in gated apartment blocks with
private security, in conditions that are completely contrasting to
those of the hillside shanty towns.
• Police chiefs seem to be in no doubt that their job is to protect
status quo through control of the underprivileged.
• Throughout the 1980’s Brazil suffered chronic inflation and the
country's foreign debt was higher than that of any other
• There was a high birth rate and a migration of people into the city
from rural areas during the 1980s and these trends continued into
Social, historical and political context
• The struggle between left wing socialist/communist groups and
right winged conservative forces stretch back into Brazils past, to
the 1960s and beyond.
• In 1961, the president, Janio da Silva Quadros, resigned, saying
his attempts at reforms had been blocked by forces of reaction
(in other words right wing political forces).
• In 1964, the new president, Joao Bechoir Marques Goulart ,
attempted to nationalise the country’s oil refineries and limit
profits going abroad but was deposed by the army.
• Military rule lasted until 1985 with the opposition political
parties being supressed, civil liberties being curbed, and strict
media censorship being enforced.
• Also during the 1960’s Roman catholic priests began to criticise
the governments failure to help the poor.
Social, historical and political contexts
• Meirelles seems to suggest in City of God that as one generation
has replaced another since the 1960’s the political dimension to
crime in the ghettos, has now most certainly been lost so that
all that is left is a dog eat dog world.
• How important do you think it is to attempt to place such films
within a social historical context? Discuss with the person next