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City of Men

Started watching this last week. From the people who brought us City of God, we have this TV spin-off that shares a basic premise -- the daily lives of young adults in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, normalized to violence and rather much teenagers everywhere else. Unlike the movie's distant, stylized drama, however, the focus of City of Men is on the people more than the place and the characters more than the circumstances. It's a great load of grit, charm and cheek, as we are brought into the lives of Larajinha and Acerola, two pre-teens growing up best they know how, surrounded by drug dealers, daily gunfights, school trips and visits to grandma. Their stories are as claustrophobic as the handicams used in some of the closest scenes, as wise as the imagination that retells Napoleon's conquest of Europe in purely territorial gangfight terms, and as brilliantly clear as the petty jealousies in the heart of a child.

It's a surreal undertaking -- within the comedy of a gang boss acting as village chief over broken sewerage pipes and runaway smoke from neighbours' stoves bothering the missus, we also know the money that makes things work is drugs sold to the rich in the suburb next door, that somewhere in the next frame, the village chief carries an M-16 because the gang up the hill has grenades. Bullies in the schoolyard stop for a game of football on the slopes, because Brazil's won the Cup five times, and damn if praise for anyone can get higher than that.

And if we forget how much the story reflects a kind of normalcy, we are reminded within the first episode that none of the young people we've met are very different from their real selves offscreen. Even the border of a TV screen can be removed, as a group of kids gathered around a videogame pause to tell us about the violence they've seen outside of their game world, before returning seamlessly into the story. Amateur actors feature heavily here, and we might even recognize recurring faces from City of God. There is absolutely zero chance anyone could mistake the people of this series as Hollywood gloss -- whether in beauty or ugliness. People are beautiful simply because they are life.



Jul. 24th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
Jul. 24th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
According to what tiny amounts of info they're throwing up at Amazon, this thing is in its second season in Brazil, and is apparently not shown on US TV. Also, Amazon doesn't have it new. I only found out about it because they only just started showing this on Australian TV last week! O_O

But, do not despair! Because the same Australian channel has an online store, and see, DVD set! *points at*
Jul. 24th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
they do show it on american tv, on the sundance channel but it's one of those special cable channels you need to pay extra for :///
Jul. 24th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
Argh! Evil cable! Quite seriously, if you're able to get your hands on it somehow, do see it. The angles and little details are just really cool -- it's like wandering through a documentary rather than a TV drama, but it's so close up you can practically see the dust breathe.

Plus, that kid who plays Larajinha looks a bit like Ronaldinho, if you've seen the Joga Bonita Nike ad with his home videos as a kid? (He was a cute kid!) :)