City of God (2002) Poster



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The scene where the gang prays before the war was not scripted. During the shooting a young boy, who used to be in a real gang, asked director Fernando Meirelles if the group was not going to pray like they always did before any important confrontation with their enemies. Meirelles told him to lead the prayer as they shot the scene.
When we hear Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) talking to Marina (Graziella Moretto) about how "he never took a hot bath", that was not scripted. Actually, that was Rodrigues and Moretto talking off camera, during a pause in the shooting, when the boy (who lived on the slums) was telling her about his life.
Leandro Firmino (Zé Pequeno) really was from the City of God and had no ambitions to be an actor, he only went to the audition to keep his friend company.
All the amateur actors were recruited from "favelas" (slums) in Rio de Janeiro, and a couple of them--Buscapé/Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), for example--actually lived in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) itself.
The film was not actually shot in Cidade de Deus slum, as it was too dangerous. It was shot in a neighboring, less dangerous area.
When Knockout Ned ("Mané Galinha" in the Brazilian original) kills someone for the first time, some people who live in the City of God approach him and congratulate him on the killing. The first woman to talk to him was played by the mother of the real Knockout Ned.
At the end the Runts (Caixa Baixa gang) talk about making a list of people they want to kill. The rat boys grew to become the now feared CV (Comando Vermelho) or Red Command, the most notorious gang in Rio. The CV is also known to have a death list.
The shot where we see a lot of dead bodies lying on huge blocks of concrete was recreated from an award-winning photograph taken during the drug war portrayed in the movie.
The last shot of the movie, where the little boy loses his slipper and comes back to pick it up, was not scripted. The incident really happened during the shooting and director Fernando Meirelles kept the take because it helped to highlight the boy's presence.
There's a scene in which the young Buscapé (Luis Otávio) laughs at his brother Marreco (Renato de Souza) after the latter is slapped by their father. The laughter was not scripted, but Otávio couldn't stop it. So de Souza improvised, telling his young brother "not to laugh at him".
Brazil's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 75th Academy Awards in 2003. It failed to receive such nomination but Miramax made a massive release in U.S. in that same year, which qualified the movie to be eligible in other categories in the following year, succeeding with four nominations (Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Adaptated Screenplay). This marked the first time a Brazilian film scored with more than two Oscar nominations and the first time in all the mentioned categories.
Fernando Meirelles wanted the cast to consist of people who had never acted before and professional actors who were not widely known. One such actor was Matheus Nachtergaele, whom Meirelles had seen in a play. While Meirelles was working on the script, however, Nachtergaele suddenly became a huge star in Brazil after starring in the hit film O Auto da Compadecida (2000). Meirelles was a little disappointed at first but Nachtergaele promised him that he would disappear into the role of Sandro Cenoura so completely that his stardom would not distract from the film. He actually moved to the real Cidade de Deus where most of the cast lived and lived there for three months to prepare for the role.
Seu Jorge, who plays Knockout Ned, is a samba-soul singer with cult status in Brazil. One of his songs can be found in the soundtrack.
The director was quoted as saying that if he knew the dangers of filming the movie in a Rio favela, he wouldn't have done the movie.
The two main actors, Alexandre Rodrigues ("Buscapé") and Leandro Firmino ("Zé Pequeno"), were given the option to to get paid R$10,000 (about US $3,000) up-front or to take percentage of the box office. Having no idea how successful the film would be, they chose up-front payment. Even if they were only getting 1% of the box office, it would have been 25 times more than what they got.
On the American version of the DVD, the guns are all removed from the hands of the group standing on the DVD cover. They are pointing imaginary guns.
The views in black and white taken from satellite, about the new territories controlled by Zé Pequeno, show the real City of God.
In order to increase the tension between Dadinho and Marreco, acting coach Fátima Toledo told teenager Renato de Souza (Marreco) to bully Douglas Silva (Dadinho) for 15 days. In the scene where Marreco slaps Dadinho, Silva started crying and threatened to abandon the movie, so the angry look he gives to Marreco in the movie is real.
The correct translation of the names is:
  • Buscapé = Rocket (literally: foot-seeker, a firecracker type)
  • Zé Pequeno = Little Zé (Zé comes from José = Joseph)
  • Dadinho = Little dice
  • Cabeleira = Big Hair/Shaggy
  • Mané Galinha = Chicken Mané (Does not imply a coward in Portuguese slang, but usually means "Womanizer") Mané is short for Manuel
  • Alicate = Pliers
  • Barbantinho = Little string
  • Cabeção = Big Head
  • Filé-com-Fritas = Steak with fries
  • Paraíba = Paraíba is the name of a state in the north east of Brazil, the state where the character comes from
The B&W footage showing an anchor talking about the prison of "Mané Galinha" is real. The anchor is Sérgio Chapelin, a well-known Brazilian news anchor.
In the English-subtitled version, Mané Galinha is instead called "Knockout Ned". "Mané Galinha" means "Chicken Manuel" in Portuguese, and he got that nickname because his real name is Manuel and he stole chickens. In the US, however, "chicken" is slang for "coward". To avoid that connotation, the name "Knockout Ned" was created because "knockout" refers to how handsome he was as compared to the "ugly" Little Zé.
The character of Buscapé was based on a composite of Paulo Lins, the author of the book "Cidade de Deus", and a childhood friend of his who dreamed of becoming a photographer.
During the sequence set in the newsroom, some crew members can be seen, including Art Director Tulé Peak (the older guy who grins to Buscapé).
Voted movie of the year by Empire magazine in 2003. It would be six years before another foreign-language film topped the list: Let the Right One In (2008).)
In the DVD commentary track, director Fernando Meirelles reveals that the shot in which we see Alicate, Cabeleira and Marreco through the bumper of the gas truck is a homage/spoof of the TV series Charlie's Angels (1976) (the three boys are seen holding their guns pointing to different ways).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
First screenplay by Bráulio Mantovani.
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The only film that year to be Oscar nominated for Best Director, but not Best Picture.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The subjective take in which we see Buscapé's point of view, after Zé Pequeno (Leandro Firmino) is killed by the Runts (Caixa Baixa gang), was shot by Alexandre Rodrigues, who played Buscapé. Photography Director César Charlone insisted on teaching Rodrigues how to handle the camera, telling director Fernando Meirelles that was really important that the boy did the shot, just like his character. Meirelles accepted the suggestion.
One day during a pause in the shooting the group of kids who played the Runts (Caixa Baixa gang) approached screenwriter Bráulio Mantovani and asked him if it was true that the movie would end with their characters controlling the slum. When he confirmed, they asked if he could write a sequel for them to star in.
During the shooting of the sequence at the motel, when Marreco, Cabeleira and Alicate rob the clients, a real motel was used as location--and it kept working through the shooting. Later some clients complained to the management that they heard gunshots in some of the other rooms.
To prepare the Runt (Caixa Baixa gang) for the scene in which he cries when Zé Pequeno shoots him in the foot, acting coach Fátima Toledo worked with the child--who had never acted before--and discovered his biggest fear was having a toothache. So, when the time came to shoot the scene, she told him to just remember his toothache, and when he was shot in the foot to pretend his toothache pain had moved to his foot.
It is somehow implied that Cabeleira and Dadinho are orphans, given the fact that after the motel robbery, Cabeleira never goes to his parents' house, so he hides on a known neighbour's house. On the other hand, Dadinho never mentions his parents as he fled from the slums after the motel robbery. Buscapé, in his narration, never talks about Dadinho, Cabeleira or even Benny's family background, as he does with other characters.
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