City of God [Film of the Week # 6]

Brazil, the 1960s, samba music, and uncut violence. City of God is a film which moves like the ocean. At times, it’s calm and innocent offering an adventurous depiction of life told from the overlooked and (globally) peripheralized perspective of poor Black youth. But most of the time the film is unabashedly candid and rough with in its illustration of how said youth have to negotiate with a society that has little reverence or respect for their livelihood. Our main characters lie, steal, murder, sell and do drugs but none of said actions hold any negative connotations nor do they define the characters to the cliché bracketed archetypes of criminals/villain. The true “villains” of City of God are hardly shown nor are they hardly talked about. If I have to spell it out in 2020, then perhaps you should give the film a rewatch and go read a little on history.

Every time I watch City of God I don’t know if I’m supposed to laugh or cry at the horrid circumstances my brothers and sisters separated from me in the middle passage continuously endure a few dozen longitudinal degrees south of New Jersey and Haiti – my two American homelands. While its showcased to me as a wild and even fun lifestyle, I know the terrible truth of how Afro-Brazilians are over policed and killed at rates which make US statistics look childish. I love this film for adding a face and a level of youthfulness to Black people our media, all over the world, loves to taint and de-individualize. I keep coming back to it searching for answers or trying to determine what it wants me to do with its material. But each time I fall susceptible to its stylization and unparalleled humor of a Black Brazilian street underworld. I know the next time I watch the film, issues concerning race will have moved the incremental distance our political systems prefer them to move. With age and maturity, sadly, I think City of God may finally offer me the answers I

Also watched from 6/07-6/14/20

  • The Raid
  • Fireworks
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Blind Woman’s Curse
  • Ida
  • Lamb
  • In the Mood for Love

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