When “City of God” premiered in 2002, directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund had no idea that their little film about violence in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (shanty towns) would find an audience outside Brazil. After competing in the Cannes Film Festival, the movie hit theaters worldwide in 2003 and earned four Oscar noms, including a best director for Meirelles, in 2004.
Director Cavi Borges explores that impact by revisiting the cast and the favelas in his new documentary “City of God – 10 Years Later.”
Like the film’s theme of social unrest, the movie’s Monday premiere had to be rescheduled to the following day following a clash outside the theater between police and teachers. Authorities reportedly broke up a teacher’s demonstration with tear-gas and rubber bullets.
Tell us about your new documentary “City of God – 10 Years Later.”
The documentary investigates the fate of the actors who participated in the movie to find out what has changed in their lives, professionally and personally, in the last decade. The idea is to show the transformations experienced by these actors, through their conflicts and achievements, as a result of the exposure and the worldwide success of the film.
Why did you decide to revisit this particular film?
After “City of God,” some of these actors decided to study cinema and started making films. At the time, I was a young producer and decided to work with them. We made a lot of short films and developed a great partnership and friendship. After 10 years, I realized how the film’s success had changed their lives and taken each one to a different direction. I called Luciano Vidigal (one of the actors) and invited him to do a film about it.
Did you reach out to the film’s directors, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, before embarking on this project?
At the beginning, I invited Fernando Meirelles to produce the film. He enjoyed the idea of this doc, but he didn’t want to produce. Fernando didn’t like the idea of making himself a film about his own film. He wanted us to be free to explore with the actors everything about the film, good and bad point of views, without censorship. So I decided to produce and direct the film with Luciano Vidigal. However, Fernando became a great partner. He guided an extensive archival image search, from shots from the actual movie, extras and making of, to scenes of actors and crew attending festivals worldwide. These images are important for the documentary because they’re track records of the success of the actors, such as attending the Oscars, as well as the screening of the film at the Cannes Festival.
What were you most shocked to learn about the actors a decade after the release of “City of God”?
The film opened new possibilities in their lives, each one chose one pathway to go. We realized that only the ones who had family support could continue as actors and greatly benefit from the film. The others didn’t make good choices.
Were any of them hesitant about participating in the documentary?
Yes, some of them wanted to charge a lot of money to do the interview; they thought that it was a big production like “City of God.” Others disappeared; 200 actors from different favelas worked on “City of God.” After conducting research, we found 50 and chose 18 for our doc.
How had the favela changed since “City of God” was filmed?
The government started thinking about the favelas in the last 10 years. Five years ago they created the UPP (Peace Political Unity) and decreased violence. But they still have a lot of things to do. After “City of God,” a lot of cultural groups were created at the favelas, many cinema schools were created with a new generation of directors, actors and producers coming from the favelas. Films like “5 x Favela, Now by Ourselves,” which screened at Cannes in 2010, and our documentary are good examples.
What does the movie suggest about the current social climate in Brazil?
Our film talks about how difficult it is to be an artist in Brazil, especially for an Afro-American from the favelas.
What are some challenges you face as a Brazilian filmmaker?
First of all, it’s very difficult to find a sponsor to do independent films. It’s also hard to put the film in movie theatres, on TV and others place. The Brazilian audience prefers to see blockbusters.
What would you like your legacy to be in the Brazilian film world?Cavideo, my cinema producer company, is developing important work with favela groups like Nos do Morro, Cinema Nosso and others. We are trying to create a new point of view. One point of view comes from the favelas. Only rich people made films 10 years ago. Now, especially with digital technology, everybody can make films. The favelas and the poor places were shown in films from the points of view of the rich. Now we can show our point of view.