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Director Fernando Meirelles on the box office hit that nobody expected.
“It was just a small film,” says Fernando Meirelles. “I was expecting about 500,000 people to see it in Brazil, but it was 3.2 million – the record for a Brazilian film. And now it’s been sold to 62 countries.” He laughs excitedly. “It really is getting out of control.” So I daren’t even tell him that it’s being hotly tipped for an Oscar nomination in February.
City Of God charts the rise of Rio de Janeiro’s vicious drug gangs, thriving in the self-sufficient, no-go slums (favelas) at the centre of the city. “Drug dealers run the favelas,” says Meirelles. “You never see the police in there. It’s like another country, and it’s getting to be a big problem.” Which is why the film was recently shown to the Brazilian Cabinet during the recent presidential election campaign. Well they probably don’t get out much, do they?
Told through the eyes of slum kid Rocket, who’d rather shoot photos than rival dealers, the film moves at breakneck speed. From random killings in the 60s to all-out gang war in the 80s, Meirelles and his co-director Kátia Lund never let the pace flag for a second, flooding the screen with rich colours and MTV-style visual trickery.
But if Meirelles is surprised at all the attention he's getting, what about the poor old, real-life drug dealers who are portrayed in the film? Amazingly, some of them actually showed up at the gala premiere in Rio. “We didn’t invite them,” says the director. “But they showed up anyway, and this guy was caught and arrested in the middle of our party with 2,000 people. It was really very embarrassing. Now he’s in jail for 15 years.” Shame. Jonathan Carter 24 December 02
City Of God, on national release 03 January 03.
reviews roundupBBCi Films:
...An intoxicating shot of cinematic adrenaline...
...Another passionate piece of Latin American filmmaking...
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