A Movie Review of the City of God Film


This paper critically analyzes how overpopulation and urban segregation issue in Rio de Janeiro are depicted in the City of God film.

Approximately 45 million people are living in slums referred to as favelas in Brazilian cities. According to United Nations Data, this population makes up 26.5% of the urban population of Brazil (Bender, Cinar, & ebrary, 2007). The favelas in Rio de Janeiro cannot only be described in terms of their geographic location but also as an indication of social segregation. Population growth rate determines the size of the favelas. City of God film was directed by Fernando Meirelles, narrating how life is in the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro. There are various scenes that compose the whole story and are projected in a comprehensive form on screens and in theatres. In the story, a young man is depicted to be battling to be productive and be self-dependent rather than becoming a victim of drug and gang battles. The film involves two characters, Rocket who looks forward to being a photographer while the other boy anticipates being a drug dealer. They live in an overpopulated slum called Rio de Janeiro marred by poverty and where people do not live up to the age of 30 (Meirelles & Ribeiro, 2002).  Due to over congestion, this area is characterized by corrupt police and uncontrolled guns and a drug culture. This paper analyses the problems that are faced by Rio De Janeiro dwellers ranging from overcrowding due to urbanization, exclusion which has led to segregation, growth of slums, and how governments should intervene in the issue and tie all these issues as depicted in the film “City of God”.

City of God brands favelas to be overcrowded due to the high population of people moving into the city to seek jobs. This place is portrayed to be a bad and dilapidated place to live in or to even visit, albeit the actual intent is to push for social change. The film tries to demonstrate that the development of slums in cities is due to rapid urbanization connected with the inability of the city to sustain the growing population. It is asserted that crime remains the major problem of urbanization due to uncontrollable population growth. Rocket points out that how the people in the favelas are viewed determines how they are treated (Meirelles & Ribeiro, 2002). Special division and planning of land are not done to congested areas like the favelas thus left disorganized, unplanned full of marginalized dangerous spaces promotive acts of violence.

The film reveals the urban exclusion that Rio de Janeiro faces. Under urban exclusion, social segregation stems from it. The wealthy are located in a good and spacious environment while the poor people are crowded in a small and dilapidated environment.  Rocket shows how many favelas in Rio de Janeiro were terrible places as he plots to escape from that place. Rocket blames overpopulation as the cause of violence and that is why he is running away. Rocket gets a life-changing opportunity when his fellows left the city by being shot dead. Apart from that, the City of God film managed to reveal the relationship between poverty and overpopulation in favelas in Rio de Janeiro as an urban problem. Due to the high population, resources are strained, job opportunities are limited and thus poverty levels increase.

The film points out a sort of urban metamorphosis with beautiful homes turning into shanty rusty houses with a high number of people occupying them. Overpopulation seems to destroy the beauty of houses and leads to the development of shanties. Moreover, the film portrays that as the population increase causing overpopulation, a petty crime that was present early tends to turn more serious and violent. Rape, murder, and robbery with violence amongst other serious crimes began to emerge. The film portrays that favelas in Rios are places where life moves very fast as the danger is prevalent in any place since the place is overcrowded and difficult to control.

However, favelas tourism developed as people from across the world toured Rio’s favelas to view the densely populated slums. This was due to curiosity about what they view in the film and the tourist visited these places in order to view the slum for themselves. The ideal of favelas tourism has been criticized for various reasons, with one of the criticisms being that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner that tourist could view their lives to be good (“Urban challenges,” 2014). It is indicated that the motivation to take favela tours was out of the real kind of life with struggles that were in the favelas. As a matter of fact, overpopulation has a serious effect on the environment. Managing population growth in densely populated is quite difficult. An increase in population has led to more use of urban space as favelas expand creating room to accommodate the increasing population. According to United Nations, proceeds at its current rate, it is estimated that 40% of the population of the world shall be slum dwellers by 2020 (“Urban challenges,” 2014). The way in which Brazil tries to address the issue of urban and natural ecosystems is probable to be the most appropriate intervention for future tries to manage such worrying issues.

City of God film is an international film; it is concerned with overpopulation and urban segregation and speaks beyond the borders of Brazil. The film was intended to document Brazil while pinpointing the urban challenges it faces. The film suggests that it is necessary that Brazil knows itself. This was to send a message through the film to the government on the urban issues facing cities and urban areas, especially the issue of overpopulation. Overpopulation is found to be the root cause of other emerging urban problems, therefore the movie push stresses to convey the message not only to Brazil but also to the entire world that it is significant for a country to know its population along with the growth rate for preparedness to manage it. By managing the population, it will help minimize other urban challenges.

In conclusion, the issues raised in the film connect to accounts of various research which actually show that standards of living in Latin American countries are in a debilitated state. These countries are the highest urbanized but yet the most non-equal region based on wealth distribution. The revelation that in Brazil, the average wealth of six men equals the wealth of 50 per cent of the population; 100 million people is disheartening. While some problems as shown in the film can be ascribed to racism, more is attributed to the inability of governments to empower their populace. Social strata in the LAC are prevalent, augmenting the unequal wealth distribution and subsequently, crime rates get high.  Therefore, the film is subtly communicating reality.