City of God, Guns and Gangs
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City of God, Guns and Gangs

2011, Crime  -   22 Comments
Ratings: 7.34/10 from 50 users.

It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and also one of the most dangerous. In the slums of Rio de Janeiro violent drug gangs operate with impunity, with no regard for human life. Now after decades of chaos, Brazilian authorities are attempting to restore order. They're using military-like force and a new approach to policing. This bold offensive is referred to as "pacification", but will it work, and can it work in time?

Rio is racing against the clock as both the World Cup and the Olympics come to town. With the games fast approaching we'll travel deep inside in some of Rio's 600 favelas, and we'll see what authorities are up against. We'll see a heart of a crack den and the men who rule with an iron fist. The battle for Rio is on, as the filmmakers take you inside the city of God, guns and gangs.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most picturesque cities on Earth and it's easy to see why it's known as "Cidade Maravilhosa" - the Marvelous City. Rio arguably has more postcard views than most other cities combined. But Rio de Janeiro is also a city plagued by gross economic disparity. Rio is home to 600 slums, or favelas as they're known in Brazil. These shanty towns are often built right alongside the city's wealthiest neighborhoods.

One in five of the city's residents live in a favela, and many will tell you they feel like second class citizens. The government has little or no control over the slums of Rio, and over the decades, as officials look the other way, the favelas became a haven for drug traffickers. In a favela, it's now a commonplace for the media to capture images of teenagers wielding assault rifles, guarding the slums from outsiders and murdering anyone who gets in their way.

Rio security forces have on occasion led operations against the traffickers, but there's never been a concerted effort to dismantle their operations entirely... until now. Securing Rio de Janeiro has never been more important. In 2014 Brazil will host the World Cup and two years later the Olympics. The eyes of the world will be on Rio like never before.

Millions of tourists are already booking their tickets, and in response, the Brazilian government is pouring unprecedented resources into a new public security policy called "pacification." The mission over the next two years is to take back control of forty of Rio's biggest and most dangerous favelas, crashing once and for all the drug traffickers who run the streets there for far too long.

But bringing security to Rio and its favelas is dangerous business. It would be fair to say that Rio de Janeiro's drug traffickers are not eager to be "pacified." The "pacification" operation is not unlike the US military surge in Iraq. The idea here is to target areas where law enforcement has traditionally been nonexistent and sweep in with an overwhelming show of force.

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22 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Kid


  2. Lyon111

    Brazil is indeed very beautiful, and I would love to go there, but I confess that I am afraid to spent a vacation there due to the high level of criminality everywhere, including on the best touristic spots. I do not know if I will ever go there, as I know how dangerous it is according to my Brazilian friends. Brazil has many problems to resolve, but I also know it has the seventh biggest economy in the world, and things are betting better every year with her considerable fast rate of development per year. One day Brazil will be on the top 3 economies for sure. Greetings from Portugal!

  3. bringmeredwine

    Unbelievable, the Brazilian government will spend millions to host the Olympics and the World Cup, but doesn't provide local infrastructures in the Favelas, or fund schools and hospitals.
    It's as if the people of the Favelas are viewed by their own government as vermin that can be eradicated by an armed to the teeth police force.
    What choice do these young people have, but to join gangs?. It's more exciting than becoming a priest or working in a sweat shop.It certainly pays more. There's obviously no birth control, no future, no hope in these Favelas.
    Too bad the leaders of the drug cartels don't give back to these communities. They make their millions of the backs of the poor and send their own children to the best schools.
    The young, gun-toting gang members die young, probably leaving behind babies and girlfriends.
    More fodder for the drug cartels, and targets for the police.
    I'm just rambling now-I'm gonna shut up and go get my stuff off the clothesline!

    1. LoggerheadShrike

      Gangs and governments are not much different. Gangs do give back to their communities, when the police stop going there and the gang effectively becomes the local government. They've funded schools and water projects and so on. They collect protection money - taxes, by any other name - and enforce a sort of order - policing, by any other name - to protect that income.

    2. DanielMountain

      What a naive statement, Loggerhead. These gangs also rape and murder civilians with total impunity.

    3. LoggerheadShrike

      Yes ... and so do governments. Raping and murdering civilians doesn't alter the fact that they do these other things. This is the nature of a thing we call "facts", they don't depend on emotional impressions but on actual events. Gangs in, for example, Columbia do horrible things to people. They also put money into the local communities. The horrible things they do doesn't change the fact that they gain local support against the police and authorities by putting money into the community.

      There are all different kinds of gangs, not just the Hollywood version. Los Zetas, one of the most feared gangs in Mexico, is made up mainly of police and military - this is why they are so powerful. Other gangs are like cults or religious movements (La Familia), others are outright political insurgencies getting money for weapons (FARC, Real IRA, etc).

      People like you don't think in terms of fact - you've been well-trained by advertisers to think in terms of brand consciousness. This brand good, this brand bad. Bad brand, we cannot discuss good things, good brand, we cannot discuss bad things. It's all about generating emotional impressions, not fact. What started in the 70s as an advertising technique has now filtered through into all areas of discussion, likely a result of PR firms and political parties adopting the same techniques of manipulation.

      This leads to some incredibly stupid thinking - like the idea that highways are bad because the Nazis built them (I've actually heard that, and brand consciousness thinking is the only explanation for that kind of stupidity)

    4. DanielMountain

      I understand where you're coming from. We both study the same subjects (gangs, governments, corruption, brainwashing).

      I suppose it depends on which gang and government you're referring to.

      I have seen the documentaries, read the books, and seen the news sites referring to the brainwashing of people through mass advertising (the connection between women, sexuality, and cigarettes in the 1920s, etc. etc.), for example.

      We're already on the same page. Our argument only begins if you're comparing the US government policy with US gangs. But in other countries the two are more similar in terms of committing rapes and murders and extortion.

      You seem to hold a more benign view of the way they control people, though, and terrorize them.

    5. a_no_n

      I hadn't thought of it like that before...but it makes sense.

  4. banished jester

    We need to learn to put up a store front for legitimate business rather than wasting money on thugs in uniforms. The government's prohibition is what fuels and ignites violence. And all for prohibiting a substance or substances that are going to be made and used regardless of how many dollars you throw at the problem.

    We better get used to the many ways that people can behave and stop trying to forcefully change our nature. It affords us nothing but regret in the long run.

    Don't involve government which drives things "undesirable" in society underground. Shadow games and taboo are not characteristic of a free society. Be the change.

  5. Gabriel

    this war on drugs would never be the solution to drug violence. Sure, the police may have reduced the number of murders, but eventually as seen in many countries, complacency in police force will take place and their realization that they have more control over the community will further fuel police corruption, then a bigger balloon of silent drug trafficking will take place - this, of course, would spring up a new breed of more sophisticated drug trafficking. But who are the new drug traffickers gonna be? wanna know? those little kids you see playing in the streets, so full of graced innocence but gradually and subconsciously being gravitated towards that crime life, because that's what they see when they wake up and go to sleep - mind you, everday! God help the world.

  6. Lesley Mary Elizabeth Alve

    Great documentary and hats off to Mariana. Thats one brave lady confronting

    the darkest parts of human nature and seemingly without too much fear. I would have been passing great logs of unmentionable things having to face up to that. Awesome lady !

    I wish the people of Rio all the love and support they need to achieve their goals. It must be wonderful for them to see hope after such a long time of being captives to this horrific life style.

  7. Lesley

    Great documentary and hats off to Mariana. Thats one brave lady confronting

    the darkest parts of human nature and seemingly without too much fear. I would have been passing great logs of unmentionable things having to face up to that. Awesome lady !

    I wish the people of Rio all the love and support they need to achieve their goals. It must be wonderful for them to see hope after such a long time of being captives to this horrific life style.

  8. John

    if the police killed all the children the problems would be solved in 20 years!

  9. Sven from Belgium

    she says murders dropped 500%? What does that mean? Knowing math a little bit, I would think that if something drops 100% it would be down to 0, how can you drop over that?

    1. dewflirt

      Now they're into minus numbers, they're actually bringing people back to life ;)

    2. thinkagainagain

      Well it is "The City of God".

    3. John Krisfalusci

      LOL, pure hilarity! ^_^

    4. avd420

      They go by each year. So if you have 100 murders in 2000, and then 50 murders in 2001, it would have dropped 50%. Then, if you have 25 murders in 2002, it would have dropped 50% again. Then, in 2003, one could say murder has dropped 100% since 2000.

    5. peter paul

      ratio of de-murdered people vs people who would have been murdered is 5 to 1 (ie 500%)

      meaning the govt is raping 5 times as many people as would have been murdered without operation BOPE

      NB: this is all because demurdering is the opposite of mudering which is forcing termination of life, whereas rape is forcing the creation of life, the exact opposite and so an opposite sign ... hence -500% ... QED

  10. oQ

    Nothing seem to be able to stop Mariana van Zeller (Portuguese journalist), she is the perfect journalist for this great documentary.
    It will be interesting to see how Rio changes because of the Olympics. I wish to go before it happens.

    1. pwndecaf

      She's become a favorite of mine. Way more brave than I. Not hard to look at, either.

      I wonder what the scarf is about.

    2. oQ

      I get the scarf thing, i have it too!