Sunday, September 7, 2014

BUFF 2014: City Of God-10 Years Later (2014)

City Of God 10 Years Later

When the stylish Brazilian slum-drama City Of God was released in 2002 it caused an immediate impact around the world.  Nominated for 68 awards including 4 Oscars and currently say at #21 in the prestigious IMDB Top 250 – it is fair to say that it is massively critically acclaimed.  But what became of the dozens and dozens of young cast members that starred in the film? What did they get from starring in a movie that such a global impact?  City Of God:10 Years Later sets out to tell some of their stories.

This documentary interviews dozens and dozens of cast members from the original film (who were almost all non-actors who really lived in such harsh conditions) and allows them to tell their own story of how City Of God changed (or didn’t) their lives.  These range from the positive, such as the young people who ended up on TV or with music careers, to the tragic, as in the children who were exploited by their parents because of this new inflow of money. 

Most of the cast remember being given between R$3,000 and R$10,000 (around £820-£2725), many of them choosing this over a percentage of any potential box office returns (an estimated $30million worldwide).  However, regardless of the actual number, it was always going to be difficult giving so many teenagers from a dangerous slum so much money – it was never going to be invested or used to set up trust funds.  Some say that a lot of the money was more of a curse than a benefit…

The tone of the film seems to lean towards accusing the filmmakers of exploiting the people who lived in the notorious favela, but then most of the praise that was heaped on the film was for how ‘authentic’ it was in highlighting the plight of the inhabitants.  It would have been far more exploitative for professional, privileged actors to attempt to recreate the lives of those in poverty – it would have completely missed the point.

The latter half of 2014 is an interesting time for the film to be screened, as the memory of the Brazilian world cup is still fresh in the mind.  Given that almost zero coverage in UK press and current affairs is about South America (except for Chilean miners), audiences who read up around the competition got used to seeing images of utopian beaches, carnival and samba dancing and finding out that underneath all of the gloss there is a country of vast inequality and racism.

10 Years Later is hard to follow at times as there are so many characters and would have worked better with a voiceover (as observed by Corrina Antrobus in our post-movie chat). But it speaks openly about this ethnic and economic inequality in the country and for that reason, regardless of whether audiences have even seen the original City Of God film, the documentary serves as an important reminder that South America has deep institutional problems and isn’t all bikini lines and Caipirinhas…

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