City of God ★★★★

From its mere title - especially in its Portuguese spelling - one can already tell that ‘Cidade de Deus’ is a film of epic calibre. Presenting the (gun) violence that reigns over Rio de Janeiro’s toughest ghettos, it tells the story of two youngsters and the way their lives are essentially guided by the city’s brutalities. One of them grows up to become a drugs dealer, the other a photographer whose prime job is to capture this drug scene and related gang clashes on camera. It is one of those movies that does not even need to establish deep emotional bonding between the audience and each and every character, since the situations are already raw and striking enough on their own to make a lasting impact. It’s grit, yet fascinating; ugly, yet filmed beautifully; brusque, yet detailed. The actors - to a large extent amateurs that actually inhabit the slums of the City of God - all transfer the burden they carry from their lifelong experiences into every shot. Not one seems abundant, even though the directors choose to swing from one extreme to another. It proves that ‘Cidade de Deus’ is epic beyond its title: its execution is just as great.