Film & TV

MIFF Review: City of God -- 10 Years Later

Ten years after the release of the Oscar-nominated Brazilian slum drama City of God, directors Cavi Borges and Luciano Vidigal catch up with the film's cast in the documentary City of God — 10 Years Later. There are uplifting stories, such as that of Alice Braga, who has gone on to costar with Matt Damon in last year's favela-as-dystopian-future thriller Elysium. Seu Jorge's first role led him to his musical breakout in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, continued acting roles, and a stadium-filling singing career. Several others have gone on to success in Brazilian television and movies. But the documentary isn't all sunny tales of fame and fortune. Many less fortunate residents from the first film have been arrested for hustling, purse snatching, and even armed robbery and shootouts with police. The star, Alexandre Rodrigues, has worked steadily since the film and is able to laugh at his choice of a low, onetime fee over a percentage of the $30 million box office take. But he also remembers crying when he returned from Cannes to a bed beneath a leaky roof. Similarly, when an apprentice bellhop enthusiastically greets Seu Jorge in his luxury hotel, we learn that the bellhop — who played the boy shot in the foot in one of City of God's most memorable scenes — quit at his peak as a child star because his father was stealing his earnings. Fans of the original film will find plenty to enjoy, but as a standalone documentary about the effect of a hit movie on the poor community that birthed it, it comes up somewhat short. At times, the tone of the interviews feels like a DVD extra talking-head featurette, while others offer compelling moments that address racism toward black Brazilians, or blend City of God audition footage into a blur of reality and fiction. Even at its least ambitious, the raw charisma that led to the actors' castings is on full display ten years later. With editing and festival schedules being what they are, it's now actually 12 years since City of God, but there's no word on whether City of God — 10 Years Later — 3 Years Later might be in the works.

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B. Caplan