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3320 - City of God 10 years later: on the origins of ethnographic realism and a dialectic of blood

This presentation would like to revisit Fernando Meirelles’ most famous film, City of God, ten years after its appearance, in 2002. The underlying hypothesis is that the film inaugurated a new, path-breaking trend in cinematic representation that can be termed “ethnographic realism” and whose main feature is the construction of representation from the inside of a particular self-enclosed group, in this case that of drug dealers and the police (always so close to each other). The motivation for it was the publication of Paulo Lins’ excellent eponymous novel in 1997. Our main argument is that the otherwise faithful film production generated a very different object from the book, since the latter provided only a basic story line to be followed and the fundamental insight that the constitution of the narrative should be made by a native informant. For the spontaneous performance of actors acting themselves was coupled with an unheard-of degree of technical expertise in Brazilian cinema by a director whose Bildung took place in the field of advertising. City of God established a landmark for the most accurate representation of the oppressed without fostering critical consciousness; its findings have been widely repeated both in Brazil and abroad.

This communication investigates the tension of spontaneity and technique in 46 seconds of a specific scene of City of God (n.20 of the DVD), at 1h10min00sec, where blood is carefully produced, to be later forgotten in a mild goof. This dialectic, we claim, is revealing for the debate on realism in Brazil and Latin America.

Keywords: City of God, realism, film, Fernando Meirelles

Author: Durao, Fabio (State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil / Brasilien)

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