Fernando Meirelles’ iconic masterpiece CITY OF GOD turns 21 this and to celebrate is getting a cinematic re-release.
A searing adaptation of Paulo Lins’ novel, based on real events, CITY OF GOD weaves together the compelling stories of a group of kids growing up in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio from the 1960s to the 80s. The narrator Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), tries to avoid being drawn in to the usual spiral of violence and crime to become a photographer and win over the beautiful Angélica (Alicia Braga), whilst gun-toting L’il Zé (Leandro Firmino) with charismatic best friend Bené (Phellipe Haagensen) becomes the brutal crime boss of the city, wiping out rival gangs without remorse. When crack shot Knockout Ned (singer/actor Seu Jorge) is dragged into the fray, the vicious turf war between the last two remaining gangs reaches boiling point.
César Charlone’s mesmerising cinematography captures the kinetic energy and chaos of the environment and the intense, visceral performances of the cast, mostly non-actors drawn from Rio’s favelas, vibrate with authenticity. The inventive cross cutting and rhythmic editing from Daniel Rezende (winner of a BAFTA for his work on the film) keeps the full-throttle pace of the action exhilarating from beginning to end, enhanced by the pulsing soundtrack of soul, samba and funk and the original score by Brazilian composers Antonio Pinto and Ed Côrtes.
Widely considered by critics and audiences to be one of the greatest films of all time, ranking no 25 on IMDB’s Top 250 List and with a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, CITY OF GOD became an international commercial and critical hit, following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002. The epic crime masterpiece won numerous awards and accolades including four Academy Award nominations – Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Director – announcing Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles as an electrifying new talent in filmmaking, and reinvigorating Brazil’s film industry. Meirelles went on to direct The Constant Gardener (winner of a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Rachel Weisz), followed by Blindness, the film adaptation of Nobel prize-winner José Saramago’s novel. In 2019 he directed and produced the original HBO series Joint Venture and the feature film The Two Popes starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.
On his motivation to adapt Paulo Lins’ novel into a film, Fernando Meirelles comments: “Paulo Lins was raised in City of God. He was doing research for an anthropological work about dealers in the favelas and his boss asked him to write a novel about it. He took eight years writing it. When the book was published, it was a bestseller in Brazil because it was very shocking for us. Nobody knew exactly what happened inside the favelas and this was a book that was telling the story from the inside.”
Meirelles used the film’s unprecedented success as a platform to focus both Brazil and the rest of the world’s attention on the problems of Rio’s favelas in the hope to stir political activism for their potential emancipation. Brazil’s president, Lula, changed his policies of public security on account of the film, yet the violence and power of drug dealers controlling the favelas unfortunately remains today.
To celebrate the UK and international re-release of the film in cinemas, a limited-edition City of God Capsule skate collection has been created, a unique collaboration between renowned skate brand Clown Skateboards and London-based creative agency AllCity in partnership with In Action for Charitable Community Initiatives in Brazil. Available HERE and at select skate stores from February 2024.