Director: Paulo Morelli; Release date: 18 July
Following on from their successful film City of God, Paulo Morelli and Fernando Meirelles have produced another action packed drama. City of God concentrated on drug gang warfare through individuals living in the slum who were drawn into the endless gang wars that swelled around the favela.
City of Men is both a story of loss and resistance that uses the very strong theme of gang violence with a certain amount of sentimentality. Two friends, Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha) and Acerola (Douglas Silva), who were themselves raised in the favelas, portray two childhood friends. Acerola's father was murdered while guarding a restaurant and to start with Laranjinha does not know who or where his father is.
Acerola is himself an 18 year old father and finds himself left with his child when his wife leaves to be a nanny in Sao Paulo to raise money to escape the slum. The journey to find Laranjinha's father takes place against the growing tension of the gang war that throws its dark shadow over the favela. Together with flashbacks and with themes like Romeo and Juliet you are told the story of their lives and the rise of the gangs.
As they move closer to finding Laranjinha's father you meet the different people living in the favela. The little store, the football coach pleading for shirts for his team from one of the gang bosses, the motor boys, a motorcycle taxi service, the paths, alleyways and stairs so steep and high, showing both the normality of the favela and the alienation caused by poverty and violence.
The growing crisis of the gang war causes increased pressure on the relationship between the two friends, leading to a separation.
The film touches lightly on the lives of the workers of the favelas. The Brazilian state neglects to provide the most basic amenities for the many thousands of people who have emigrated from the poor regions of Brazil to the big cities to find work and hope. The favela is a collective solution to the problem faced by the working poor in Brazil. While conflicts in the favelas are used to demonise those who live there, the real violence comes from poverty and the murderous police invasions.
Brazil produces many films about favelas and gangs, and this one is aimed at the international market and has to be seen in this light. It is a non stop drama which is worth seeing to give you a sense of life in Rio's favelas.