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City of Men

2008-06-19 09:20
What it's about:

Two friends, Acerola (Douglas Silva) and Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha), grew up together in a favela of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), turn 18 and start to face adulthood. Ace struggles with the demands of fatherhood, while Laranjinha searches for his long lost father. As a drug-related gang war explodes around the two friends, secrets surface that threaten to destroy their strong bond. The film continues the story developed in the popular and respected Brazilian TV series.

What we think of it:

Like City of God (2002) and the four-season Brazilian TV series also called "City of Men", City of Men the movie deals with life in the favelas of Rio, and how poverty and the constant fights between the gangs affect the lives of ordinary, yet extraordinary people living among them, and manages to leave the lives of the richer people in the country mainly untouched.

Like the other two productions, City of Men is hugely meaningful to any vaguely conscious South African – as a perspective on the problems our countries both face, but maybe more importantly as an example of what an entertaining, artistic piece of cinema can result from tackling serious issues. It's not necessary to feature exploding porterloos or elephant-shit showers to get an audience here or overseas. (No prizes for guessing that I'm no Schuster fan.)

Those expecting the frantic pace and cruel, shocking tactics used to make City of God a terrifying roller-coaster of a crime movie will probably be disappointed. City of Men is grainier and more graceful. Although it'll make you sweat and jump in your seat more than once, it has more psychology, less action and will more likely move you to tears by touching your heart than by filling you with despair at what the human race can do. There's a home from which they might have to escape to survive. As Anita puts it "Sometimes you want to move your face to not see the murders."

At other times, you want to move your face not to see moments of beauty so intense you almost can't bear to look – at Acerola's face crumbling as he first holds his tiny newborn son in his hands, for instance.

Some will say director Paulo Morelli's gone too hard, while others will claim he's gone a bit soft when compared with the borderline exploitative depiction of violence in City of God. I feel it's just right – sensitive, beautifully shot, shocking at times, moving and funny. A must see.

Jean gives it ****
Anita gives it ***

- Jean Barker (SA) with input from Anita Martins (Brazil)

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A Brazilian and a South African walk into a Brazilian movie together, in South Africa... Here's what they thought of Paulo Morelli's new film.

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