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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rocket, the photographer

The film, "City of God" hit me as hard-- as any good film should. It stopped me, sat me down and revealed truths that I had been looking for, and some I had not known I had been looking for.

Two good friends had been recommending it to me for years, but I resisted, thinking I had to be in the right state of mind for a hard movie about poverty in Brazil. Little did I know that the film would bring to light what is going on today in Mexico and along the border in South Texas.

The film is artful, masterful in its production style and editing. My colleague, Ron Wojnar, has his Advanced Editing students study the film for its editing in particular. As a journalist, I see the film's news media storyline of particular interest. The main character, Rocket, grows up in City of God, and aspires to become a news photographer.

The difference between the drug wars in Brazil and in Mexico is that they are more extreme here than in Brazil: In Mexico, newspapers would not play the role that they played in the movie set in Brazil, exploiting and exposing the gang wars of the neighborhood of City of God, nor the complicity and corruption of the police. Newspapers are silenced by the cartels, while the ones in Brazil are not shown to be afraid of writing about the violence. Yet.

The "happy ending" for Rocket, not given to many of his childhood chums or family, however tentative and tossed like a lifeline by capricious fate, would not happen in Mexico's drug wars today. Newspapers there, along with social media now, are not serving the function they perform in most countries.

The film is a jewel, a treasure and I'm amazed at the vision of the filmmaker, who based his movie on the true story of the boy who grew up in City of God to tell the stories of human ingenuity and perseverance in a drug based economy.

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