City of God is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The story was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li'l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned. The cast includes Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Jonathan Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga and Seu Jorge. Most of the actors were, in fact, residents of favelas such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus itself.
The film received four Academy Award nominations in 2004: Best Cinematography (César Charlone), Best Directing (Meirelles), Best Editing (Daniel Rezende) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Mantovani). Before that, in 2003 it had been chosen to be Brazil's runner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was not nominated to be one of the five finalists.
Chickens are being prepared for a meal when a chicken escapes and an armed gang chases after it in a favela called the Cidade de Deus ("City of God"). The chicken stops between the gang and a young man named Rocket (Buscapé), who believes that the gang wants to kill him. A flashback traces Rocket, the narrator, back to the 1960s.
Three impoverished thieves known as the "Tender Trio" – Shaggy, Clipper, and Goose – rob and loot business owners; Goose is Rocket's brother. The thieves split part of the loot with the citizens of the City, and are protected by them in return. Several younger boys idolize the trio and one, Li'l Dice (Dadinho), convinces them to hold up a motel and rob its occupants. The gang agree but, resolving not to kill anyone, tell Li'l Dice to serve as lookout. They give him a gun and tell him to fire a warning shot if the police arrive but an unsatisfied Li'l Dice fires a warning shot mid-robbery and guns down the motel inhabitants once the gang have run off. The massacre brings the attention of the police, forcing the trio to split up: Clipper joins the church, Shaggy is shot by the police while trying to escape, and Goose is shot by Li'l Dice after taking the thieving boy's money while his friend Benny (Bené) watches.
Later in the '70's. Rocket has joined a group of young hippies. He enjoys photography, and likes one girl, but his attempts to get close to her are ruined by a group of petty criminal kids known as "The Runts". Li'l Dice now calls himself "Li'l Zé" ("Zé Pequeno"), and along with Benny has established a drug empire by eliminating all of the competition, except for one dealer named Carrot, and forcing Carrot's manager Blackie (Neguinho) to work for him instead.
A relative peace has come over the City of God under the reign of Li'l Zé, who avoids police attention by having an initiate kill a Runt. Zé plans to kill Carrot, but Benny talks him out of it.
Eventually, Benny and his girlfriend decide to leave the City, but during the farewell party Zé vents his frustration by humiliating a peaceful man named Knockout Ned, and while he is distracted, Blackie accidentally kills Benny while trying to shoot Li'l Zé. As Benny was the only man holding Zé back from taking over Carrot's business, his death leaves Zé unchecked and Carrot kills Blackie for endangering his life.
Following Benny's death, Zé rapes Ned's girlfriend. After Ned's brother stabs him, his gang retaliates by firing on Ned's house and killing his uncle. Ned, looking for revenge, sides with Carrot and eventually a war breaks out between Carrot and Zé.
As the '80's begin, both sides enlist more "soldiers", with Zé providing weapons for the Runts and eventually the reason for the war is forgotten. One day, Zé has Rocket take photos of him and his gang. After Rocket leaves his film with a friend who works at a newspaper, a female reporter publishes one of the prints, since nobody can get into the City of God anymore. Rocket takes a romantic interest in the reporter, eventually losing his virginity to her.
Rocket thinks his life is endangered but agrees to continue taking photographs, not realizing Zé is very pleased with increased notoriety. Rocket then returns to the City for more photographs, bringing the film to its beginning. Confronted by the gang, Rocket is surprised that Zé is asking him to take pictures, but as he prepares to take the photo, the police arrive, who drive off when Carrot arrives. In the gunfight, Ned is killed by a boy who has infiltrated his gang to avenge his father, a security guard who was killed by Ned during a bank robbery. Li'l Zé and Carrot are taken with plans to give the media Carrot, whose gang never paid off the police, while they steal Zé's money and leave him alone. He is murdered by the Runts for his forced murder of one of their own earlier. Rocket takes pictures of the entire scene as well as Zé's dead body and goes back to the newspaper.
Rocket is seen in the newspaper office looking at all of his photographs through a magnifying glass, and deciding whether to publish the photo of corrupt cops and become famous or the photo of Li'l Zé's body and get an internship. He decides on the latter and the film ends with the Runts walking around the City of God, making a hit list of the dealers they plan to kill in order to take over the drug business. They mention that a Comando Vermelho ("Red Command") is coming.
Rated certificate 18 and not to be supplied to perspns below that age.