UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Vantoen Pereira, Jr./Courtesy of Miramax Films

City of Men

Director Paulo Morelli reveals the beauty and treachery of Rio de Janeiro’s slums

By Kevin Spurgaitis

City of Men
Brazil: Portuguese with subtitles.
Directed by Paulo Morelli, starring
Darlan Cunha and Douglas Silva.
(Fox Filmes do Brasil)


Lawless shantytowns, fatherless boys and harsh secrets underpin City of Men, set in Rio de Janeiro, inside the slum of Dead End Hill.

With his 18th birthday fast approaching, Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha) sets out to find the father he never met. If nothing else, he wants his biological parent to sign his birth certificate, so that he won’t have to go through life with “father unknown” stamped on his I.D. papers. Meanwhile, his best friend Acerola (Douglas Silva) tries to raise his own child and fails miserably, much to the chagrin of his young wife. But when the lifelong friends suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of a gang war, they are forced to confront a loathsome truth from their shared past.

Locating the story in the same favelas as the Academy Award-nominated film City of God (2002), director Paulo Morelli adeptly shows audiences what it’s like to grow up in a South American culture rife with violence and run by street gangs. Women are present in this story, but the real focus is on the phenomenon of missing fathers and its devastating effect on young men, especially. Wallace finally tracks down his dad, Heraldo, an ex-waiter who has just finished a sentence for manslaughter, but is rebuffed in no uncertain terms. “I have nothing to give you,” Heraldo mutters to his son. “Nothing to offer at all.”

Occasionally, the film feels a bit clunky and contrived. We’ve seen discontented adolescents in movies before. Then again, the real star is Dead End Hill itself. Through his series of back-alley vignettes, the director spotlights the raw beauty and treachery of Rio de Janeiro’s slums — places endowed with breathtaking panoramas and religious architecture, not to mention notorious outlaws who so shrewdly fill the void left by absentee fathers.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image