Today in film history, January 17, 2003, “City of God” opened in USA theaters.
I’ve been waiting for the “City of God: 10 Years Later” documentary to come out for five years. The film “City of God” debuted in 2002 and now it’s 2017, indicating that this film is four years past its due date. I’ve been seeing trailers and previews on the Internet for the last four years, but it never seemed to secure a wide international release outside of festivals. It’s finally available on Netflix and I’ve already watched it 5 times.
“City of God” is the most famous Brazilian film ever. It follows the 20-year evolution of a planned low-income community in Rio de Janeiro (Cidade de Deus) that, by the early 80s, begins to suffer from incessant violence between rival drug gangs. It’s the trueish story of young kids falling into gang war in Rio de Janeiro, and it was told through beautiful cinematography, acting by amateur kids and a great old school soundtrack. This seductive combination made the movie a box-office and critical success around the world.
None of the young actors in “Cidade de Deus” were professional actors, but they already had years of training. Katia Lund, the co-director of the film, worked through Nos dos Morro, a local community theatre group to find kids and trained them over the course of a year. The end result was a masterpiece.
So what happened to them? This is exactly what “City of God: 10 Years Later” answers.
Simply put, if you were white, your career took off and if you were black, life took its toll. I can’t say that some of the black kids didn’t have any success afterwards. But it is obvious that white skin and the privileges it brings helped those actors.
Here is what happened to them:
Alica Braga, the white young woman featured in the posters all over the world, became a Hollywood movie star who starred in films with Will Smith. Closer research reveals that she is the niece of Sonia Braga, one of Brazil’s most famous actresses. More so than any kid from the favelas, she was ready to reap the benefits of starring in the successful film.
Two of the youngest kids from the film, Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha, later starred in the “Cidade dos Homens” film and television series. Before this year, Darlan hadn’t acted in TV since 2010 and in one preview of the film, appears to be crying over this stalled career. Douglas Silva found religion, married young, and has a very stable life. He even appeared regularly on a popular television show. This documentary appears to have renewed interest in the two actors. They are now starring in another reup of the “Cidade dos Homens” series on Globo.
The other black kids weren’t as lucky.
One of them, Rubens Sabino Silva, was arrested for stealing just a year after the movie was released. He played the In 2015 he was found living in the São Paulo cracolandia area for drug addicts.
One of my favorite characters, one of the two original bandits in early “Cidade de Deus,” never really pursued a career in acting. But in the documentary he reveals that he grew up as an orphan with out any family. Now he works as a car mechanic and has his own family.
Another actor disappeared. No one knows if he is alive or dead.
Many of the young actors from Vidigal, Rio’s most gentrified favela, pursued successful careers in acting that took them to movies and television series. Roberta Rodrigues, the woman who attempts to escape “City of God” with her bandit boyfriend, can be seen in novelas on GLOBO television up until today. And she even opened her own hot dog stand this year. That boyfriend, Jonathan Haagensen, has starred in several television series and continues to act in theatre. But a closer look reveals that their biggest roles have been playing gangsters and sassy women from favelas. So does that mean they have really been successful?
The success of Thiago Martins, the young gangster who led the Runts, bothered me the most. He grew up in a favela like most of the actors, but somehow found a way to supersede his beginnings, appearing in 6 films, multiple television shows and dozens of theatre pieces. The documentary does everything it can to illustrate that Thiago has achieved a level of success unattainable for most of the other black actors.
The documentary is well researched and includes great footage from the film. It’s best to watch the movie before though, so you can keep up with all the characters they managed to track down.
“City of God: 10 Years Later” is currently streaming on Netflix and can also be found on other home video platforms (DVD, Digital) so check it out now. Watch a trailer below: