The film, City of God, is a sort of documentary that depicts how violence evolves in the favela, ironically termed the City of God. It shows the mechanisms of the workings of poverty, and of crime in a place where drug dealing and killing of people, even by children, is commonplace. It is also the story of two boys, raised together, but who take two separate steps in life. Thus, while one of them accepts crime and the status he lives in, the other kid decides that he does not want to be a criminal, and is opposed to the violence around him. It is thus a story of hope in times of turbulence. It shows a man overcoming his worst fears, and rising above what society has handed him, to make his path and destiny. The film has major ramifications for city planning, especially as it relates to eradicating crime, dealing with children’s issues, and a majority of societal problems in general.
One of the themes that come out is social separation. We can see that for the children of the City of God, everything is stacked against them from the beginning. They are socially, economically, and racially isolated in a community that thrives on crime, poverty, drugs, and violence (LeGates). In this city, the odds are stacked against the children, and it seems impossible that they can evade the menace of becoming a gangster. It takes sheer strength, will, power, and some bit of luck to break the vicious cycle that has engulfed this community. They are a forgotten lot; no human rights model applies to them. Many of them are illiterate, but they do possess the skills to handle a gun and use it without remorse. Throughout the movie, the image of gun-toting ten-year-olds being initiated into gangs by being told to kill shows the hopelessness that faces this City of God, and the narrative is familiar.
Throughout the world, stories of social oppression are rive. In history, while many themes have been disappearing and reappearing, one of the most consistent ones has been social segregation. And while many stories have been told from the position of the rich oppressing the low class, this time, it is about struggling to make it in daily life, a story of the children of God. In this City of God, representative of hardship, and captivity, one survives by conforming. Only by adapting do people earn a living and manage to get the basic amenities. People learn to shelf emotions, and do what needs to be done to survive. The film, created in the same style as Boyz n the Hood, shows two worlds to this story. It is easy to look at the kids killing without remorse, and thinking, this is a forgotten lot, but what about those who cannot conform? There are child soldiers in the Sudan being forced to kill their mothers, and it is hard to get back from that. Children in Syria, a forgotten world, watching their families being butchered by rockets.
In the film, the location and the characters give a hands-on approach to the subject; enabling the audience to get a glimpse of the environment that that these children of God live in, and thus empathize with them. Not all of the can adapt to the surroundings, though, and adapting does not exactly mean survival. In the story, as evinced by other films with a touch of social separation, the death rates are always higher than in the upper class. Entering a gang gives one the hope of survival, but it also increases the chances of death. The reason for the children, some as young as ten, being the leaders of the gang is because the older population is dead. Poverty, crime, drug abuse, disease, has killed much of the older generation, leaving the younger ones with no one on which to depend. In the TV Series, The Wire, most of the older generation is incarcerated or dead, leaving the young kids to peddle drugs, kill, and at least earn a living (Soldano).
Throughout history, social oppression has deprived the young generation of the nurture and care they need to be responsible adults. This creates two sub-themes; Role Models, and Imprinted Memories. In the issue of role models, social oppression has robbed the children of role models to emulate. When all they grow up knowing is crime, drug peddling, and other forms of oppression, they learn to accept that as the society of the time and deal with it. Kids look up to the older generation to provide solutions to their problems, to show them the way, but throughout history, the older generation has been the cause of their problems or has done little to solve them. There has been no one to show the way, no stories of bravery close to home, to make them change their way, or give them hope. They thus revert to the same vicious cycle, a dejected people, and struggle against all hope to survive.
People learn by sight, thought, hearing, and generally through experience. Once a living thing experiences stimuli, it gets imprinted in memory, and many be used to inform future thought. The more memory is repeated, the more it informs thought and action. Happy thoughts have happy actions, and bad thoughts have bad consequences (Sinden). It is all about energy, informing man’s workings. To the children of the favela, the most frequently imprinted images are those of poverty, killing, crime, drug use, and hopelessness. They thus relive the thoughts, making it easier for them to kill and commit crime, something a ‘normal’ 10-year old would not be doing. Throughout the film, though, are happy thoughts, such as the recurrent images of the soccer pitch. The main character, who likes photography, can make it out successfully because he sees the beauty around him. He has happy thoughts, which give him hope.
As with many major films, and has been the tradition throughout history, the woman has been neglected to the periphery. It has been imprinted in memory that the woman’s side of the story is not as important, and has been avoided persistently. Maybe it is due to this imprinted memory that the paper jumps to the conclusion.
In conclusion, the title, City of God, is used to depict earth, and any location where children live in favelas; places of captivity. Without the freedom to choose, many of them enter the same vicious cycle in which they found themselves. They know no better, they have no better. Theirs is a story of survival, even when this means going against the authority of God. They lack role models to show them what is better, to give them hope. Underneath all that, however, is a shimmer of hope; that the cycle can be broken, that better can emerge.
LeGates, Richard. City Reader. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2007. Document.
Sinden, JD. “Memory, Imprinting, and the Brain: An inquiry into mechanisms.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry (1987): 119-120. Document.
Soldano, Todd Michael. “All the pieces matter: A critical analysis of HBO’s “The Wire”.” Dissertation. 2008. Document.