6. City of God (2002)
City of God, or as I like to call it, “The better version of Slumdog Millionaire”, is my obligatory foreign language film for this list, although my naming it #6 is anything but obligatory. The movie takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a ghetto referred to as the “City of God” by its residents. It spans the 70’s-80’s and follows the life of two young boys from the City of God, one who wants to get out of the lifestyle of drugs/guns/violence in the ghetto, and the other who seeks to become the most powerful crime-lord within it.
The fact that this is based on a true story just makes me shake my head: How could people live like this? How could a society be so destructive? The movie does not answer these questions in a way that comforts me. We as viewers want reasons for why bad people do things in movies, no matter how stupid that reason is. Take for instance the movie The Ring. "So you’re telling me, that the reason you kill people after 7 days is because they didn’t make a copy of your retarded home video? REALLY?" But isn’t that a better answer than say, “She was a freaking deranged little undead girl and just felt like screwing with people.” If the second answer had been the case, I would have walked out of the theatre and probably not slept that night, but since there was a reason, it didn’t bother me that a bunch of innocent people died. And that’s the thing that makes City of God a great movie—it gives us no answers—just chills you to the bone. Yes, a lot of the killing was related to drug wars, or money, and things like that, but the simple fact is that much of the violence and destruction in this movie had no rhyme or reason at all, and that’s scary. Once scene in particular floored me—a 10 year-old is handed a gun and, at gunpoint, forced to shoot his 6 or 7-year old friend. And that brings me to my next point…
This definitely isn’t a film that makes us reflect inwardly. It’s a commentary on society. Yes, this movie takes place on a different continent two decades ago, but to pretend that senseless violence isn’t going on in our own backyard is would be intentionally closing our eyes to the truth. I’m not trying to get all Michael Moore on you guys or anything (I would need a few extra pounds, a dirty t-shirt, a megaphone, and a few factual errors). I’m not a politician, and I don’t have the answers. But for me especially, to sit in my downtown Houston apartment and watch this movie while acting like I’m completely removed from it’s message would just be ignorant.
(Steps off soapbox).
Oh, and while we’re at it, top 7 Foreign Language films of the decade (going with 7 instead of 5 for this particular list)
1. City of God
2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
3. Pan’s Labyrinth
5. The Lives of Others
6. Letters from Iwo Jima
7. Let the Right One In
958. New Moon (Okay, don’t really have a humorous foreign film to make fun of here, so I just went with the stupidest movie I could think of. Although, 13-year-old girl language is kind of like a foreign language, so maybe this actually works?)