Men will be boys and the power of photography
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Zé is ugly. He's drug dealer and gangster in 1970's Rio. Never learned to read. Socially awkward, not sure how to handle his feelings so he resorted to violence.
Those are some of the conclusions I drew while watching Cidade de Deus (2002).
Despite being surrounded by his gang all the time Zé was lonely and Bené was his only true friend. He loved Bené. And when Bené decided to leave the ghetto and move to a farm with his girl to live a Bohemian lifestyle, Zé couldn't handle being alone. So he resorted to violence. Violence was his way of garnering attention and respect, but that respect he got from people was actually fear.
Bené adviced Zé to get a girlfriend. There's that moment where you can see the hurt on Zé's face and then he realizes, "That's my boy. He's telling me the truth. He only wants the best for me. And he's going to do what's best for him." Right before that moment I feared we'd have a "What the fuck did you say to me?" type moment since he's a loose cannon.
Maybe a woman would chill him out, teach him how to enjoy life. I had to wonder, would Zé even know how to behave around a woman? He wasn't raised by his mother, but by the streets. That can have a huge effect on how a person relates to others. That night at that club, he zoned in on a girl he found attractive. Asked her to dance. She turned him down because she was at the club with her boyfriend.
Zé only knew how to handle the pain of rejection by humiliating the girl's date. He forced the guy to strip naked in the club so he'd be humiliated, lording his power over him. I was surprised they (Zé and his gang) didn't sodomize him. Reminds me of Abu Ghraib or the NYPD.
Yes, his environment was rough, yet I'm sure not everyone grows up into the type of man Zé became. Are all gang members/leaders little boys looking for love and acceptance? Or are they bad apples by nature?
Rocket discovers during his adolescence the power of the camera. After the murder of a gang member, the scene around the dead body and the photographers stuck with him. He became the "official photographer" of his group of friends and used the camera to get closer to the girl he had a crush on.
Rocket's story in Cidade de Deus also portrays the good ol' days of print journalism and photographers being paid for their images. He stumbled upon his career as a photojournalist when he was allowed into the inner sanctum of Zé's gang. Rocket's photography gave Zé a sense of self demonstrating the power of photography on the whole.
During the climax of the movie, Rocket is literally caught in the middle of a gang war, armed with his camera. He developed a level of confidence when he was shooting. He did all he had to do to capture images of the gun battle, police corruption and the iconic shot of Zé's bloody corpse.
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The sad truth is the violence will never end. It appears as thought everyone in the Cidade de Deus is avenging someone's death. Zé's end came the same way he began. The Shorties continue right where Zé and Knockout Ned left off.
Cidade de Deus was not as disturbing to me as I was lead to believe. Due to the cinematography, a lot of the sex and violence wasn't shown, so the viewer is left to create the full image in their mind. I was definitely taken aback that a child was killed on camera, but again, due to the cinematography, we didn't see it all. What you don't see can be just as powerful.
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