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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 14:50 GMT
City Of God
Newsnight Review discussed Fernando Meirelles's award-winning Brazilian film which is set across 30 years in a slum housing project.



(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

EKOW ESHUN:
I loved this film. It's a great film. It's a long film and big reaching. It's not about guns. It's about fragility.

There is a party where one of the kids wants to get out and live on a farm with his girlfriend. We know he's not going to make it out. The scene is brilliant.

The moment the camera pans across this club. You see these different gangs and tribes. They have different names. There is Playboys, there's Hoods. All these different groups. You see these kids who are motherless, essentially fatherless who found ways to form a connection with each other, who found ways to form some kind of fragile fraternity, fragile love and unity with each other.

The whole film is a mourning for the lack of that in the lives of all of these kids. What I love about it is, yeah, the camera, the director, the action moves, moves all the way through it. Always it's about a mourning process. Always it's about what isn't on screen as well.

MARK KERMODE:
What this does is to take its influences from Pulp Fiction and from something like Amores Perros with the collision of three story lines. What it manages to do is take the subject as seriously as Ekow is saying but doing it in a way which is visually stylish and exciting as, for example, The Matrix. That whip pan thing which has become hip in cinema, he uses with some purpose.

He worked with a documentary film maker to get that authenticity. A lot of people were taken from those areas and have never worked before. You have that grounding. He has managed to have extremely complicated dramatic structure. And do it in a way which is visually stylish. It is an extraordinary piece of work, but still serious.

BONNIE GREER:
I never ever use the word morality when you talk about art. I don't think those two things go together. A piece of art does have its own kind of morality. The background I come from, this kind of thing is common. I lost a nephew to gangland violence. Another nephew I almost lost. My brothers have had guns held up to this heads.

At the end of the film - we have to remember that, at the end of the day, people go to the movies to see a story and to hear and to see it well told. At the end of the movie what I took away from it was a young man saying - I really want to be a photographer. I want to make movies. This is what it's about. I'm sitting there thinking - why was I taken through this? I think it's a real, real issue with a film like this because it's brilliant and beautifully made and technically well done. You have to then ask the next question, which this film maker does not go to. It is why is this film - why does it exist? You can ask that question with a film like this. Why does it exist?

KERMODE:
One shouldn't over look the fact it has raised issues about what's happening in these areas. There has been political debate about whether this is going on in our country. Around the world people are looking at it¿ It's a film which draws attention to¿

LAWSON:
Isn't it a brilliant shrug? It says this is stuff goes on. It's random and it never explains it.

KERMODE:
No, I don't think it's a shrug at all. It draws your attention to a situation which is chaotic and brutal. And children being in the possession of drugs is normalised. It elicits a response not by saying this is a good or bad thing. If anybody can watch the sequence in which the young child is holding a hand gun and firing and not be appalled.

ESHUN:
I think it's proper cinema in that things offset against each other. You are dealing with a brutal story but it's beautifully told. Many of the characters in it are genuine street kids. What the film is saying is that these people have dreams, ambition and hopes that the world they see is not ugly, it can be beautiful. While showing you the brutality, it shows you their hopes and desires through the lighting of the film, the colour of the film and the movement of the camera.

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