The life in Rio de Janeiro can seem to be the never ended festival with a lot of smiling people and bright colors. Nevertheless, the reality of the people’s life in the city can be far from this vivid picture. Rio de Janeiro is surrounded by the territories known as favelas where the peculiarities of people’s life differ from those living in the center of the city.
Favelas are the territories inhabited by the poor Brazilians who were isolated from the other population many years ago. People in favelas live according to these suburbs’ rules which are based on the violence and crimes. Criminal gangs were the leaders of these territories during the period of the 1960-1980s which are depicted in the movie directed by Fernando Meirelles and known as City of God (Cidade de Deus).
City of God is the name of the favela where the society lives according to the dangerous and unjust rules provided by the youth gangs, where guns and drugs form the base of the social values. That is why the social decline of City of God depends on the historical aspect of inhabiting these territories, on the peculiarities of the environment, on the lack of moral norms among the youth, and on the lack of the authorities’ control.
The favelas which surround the center of Rio de Janeiro are the result of intensive inhabiting these territories with a lot of immigrants and those people who had no rights to live in towns, but tried to find the work in this city where the industrialization process began and workforce was required.
The amount of poor people who came to Rio de Janeiro searching the work was enormous. However, it was impossible for them to settle with those rich people who lived in the center of the city. That is why the number of slums known as favelas increased. In his film City of God, Fernando Meirelles describes all the peculiarities of the everyday life of the poorest people who suffered from a lot of problems caused by the low social position in the city and their environment.
It is impossible to speak about the definite strict social system or social network which could function in these slums. Nevertheless, it is the territory where many families live in dangerous conditions of the pressure and lack of space and funds and follow the rules provided by the youth gangs which control the life in these slums. Traditional social laws and rules as well as moral norms are not considered as significant items in these suburbs.
It can seem that there are no any laws at all in these slums. The main characters of the movie are Rocket and Li’l Dice. In spite of the same social origin and the fact of birth in the favela City of God, their visions of their future are quite different. Rocket wants to become a press photographer when Li’l Dice is ready to share the life of the slum’s gangsters. Making this choice, Li’l Dice follows those principles the realization of which he observes in these slums every day (City of God, 2002).
Thus, the peculiarities of City of God as the urban slum with its specific physical environment are depicted in the movie with a lot of shocking details. The picture is too close to reality with focusing on many jerry-built sheds where people have to live and on the everyday routines of these inhabitants. Living surrounded by such depressed pictures, the youth thinks and acts according to that patterns which they can often observe everywhere in City of God.
These pictures are dreary and do not provide any chances for changing the situation. The growth of violence and inhumanity in these territories can be explained only by the peculiarities of the conditions in which the population of the favela lives. Thus, the poverty of these people is the main cause for their acting out of laws and moral principles (Ebert, 2003).
City of God is the slums where common social norms are replaced with the notions of violence, rape, revenge, anxiety, anger, and pressure. The inhabitants of these territories are inclined to the moral degradation because of the aspects of their everyday life. The only way to avoid this social impact is to find the possibilities to escape from these territories (Ebert, 2003).
Those children who are brought up in these slums grow with their special vision of the world and its laws and norms because they are involved in the social network of these territories where crimes are the ordinary facts of the everyday reality. Moreover, crimes are the ways to survive in this small world known as City of God where God’s laws do not work. The understanding of the good and the evil has its peculiarities in City of God affected by the specific social conditions.
And those children isolated in the slums from the other world can dream rather of holding a brothel as Li’l Dice does because it is his vision of acquiring the high social status in these slums (City of God, 2002). These children are poorly educated and have wrong visions of the life principles broken by their everyday reality.
City of God is the place where people create their own laws and make the other people live according to them. Nevertheless, it is difficult to speak about the strong social structure or social organization of these territories. The rules are rather simple.
Those people who have guns, use drugs, and commit crimes have more advantages in comparison with those ones who do not follow such a style of life. That is why the participation in the street gangs can be considered as the question of prestige. It is a definite social status which can ease the life of the inhabitants of these slums which are full of violence (Ebert, 2003).
The problems of the society caused by the peculiarities of the environment of the slums in Rio de Janeiro are depicted in City of God with references to such issues as the historical context of inhabiting these suburbs with the working population, the features of the moral degradation of the people who are oppressed by the challenges of poverty, the development of urban crimes realized by the violent youth gangs the participants of which have no idea about the moral rules and norms because of the lack of education and the authorities’ control.
It seems that these dangerous territories with the poorest population in the city for which every day is the fight for survival are not controlled by any governments and follow only the rules and laws of the street gangsters.
City of God. (2002). [Video file]. Retrieved from
Ebert, R. (2003). City of God. Retrieved from