I wasn't really sure what to expect with City of God. I wasn't sure whether to expect a Hollywood-ised version of slum life, like Danny Boyle did with Slumdog Millionaire (read Q&A by Swarup to get the actual story). I wasn't sure whether we were going to get a Quentin Tarantino style shoot-em up, with some smart dialogue. I wasn't sure whether or not this would turn into a Brazilian version of Gran Torino.
What I got instead was a simply brilliant and beautiful tale.
The premise of City of God is very simple - young people growing up in slums (or ghettos) across the world have few options to escape their dreadful existence. They can stay on at school, ignore all temptations and with a bit of luck find a job that will lead on to a better one, or they can get involved in gang culture. In City of God we see the difficulties of the former and the ease in which young people can fall into the latter.
The film is incredibly well shot, using a voice-over to narrate the overall story and to link individual smaller stories that contribute to the whole. Alongside that is a rather sparing use of violence to tell what is an incredibly violent tale - which all contributes to a very compelling story.
That is perhaps the best thing about the movie, it is compelling without being violent; it is moving without being overly saccharine; it is a genuine film about a very serious problem. After watching this I am going to be buying my own copy of the movie - definitely one to watch again.