City of God (****)

City of God (Cidade de Deus) is an excellent movie about a subject that might seem like fiction to some people, but it represents reality for the people that live in the slums of Brazil. At first I expected to see a lot similarity of the scenery in the movie to what I know from Colombia, but in reality it showed me that I have really never known what a slum is. There are places in my city back in Colombia like Ciloe Siloé, and El distrito de Aguablanca, that probably mirror what I saw in this movie, but even though I might have seen them, the movie showed me that I have never really been there.

Back in Colombia my Dad worked with a lot of people that lived in poor areas, and one of the ladies that helped my Mom around the house was from Siloé, another very poor area of Cali. Even though I had heard stories about the violence there and how bad it was, this movie put it into perspective. Children are the ones that sometimes perpetrate those crimes. I always thought that the gangs and bad people were grown ups but as the movie depicted it most of the times by the time you are 12 you could already be a murderer.

City of God is beatifully filmed, with colors and angles really helping the story. The soundtrack was also very fitting to the action and the Brazilian sound was definitely there almost being a supporting character. The use of sound reminded of another excellent movie Run Lola Run. The acting was excellent and the movie felt very real. Even though it was not a documentary but a movie based on actual events, it felt like a documentary. The events were not only possible but real. I was amazed to see how the corruption of the police was portrayed, and also the reality that hits when you know that stuff like that happens all around us but we mostly ignore it as a society.

Where I live now there is a town close by considered a Ghetto, and well in Chicago everyone knows there are places you don’t go into. It is sad that a movie this violently grotesque is not only true but could be happening just miles from us. Even though the movie shows how drugs made things worse, I think that poverty and apathy are biggest stars in the movie.


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Maria Full of Grace (***)

Starring Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae, Orlando Tobon, John Alex Toro, and Yenny Paola Vega. This was one difficult movie to watch. It is even tougher to review it now. I am not even sure where to start. The movie is the story of Maria, a 17-year-old Colombian that is dealing with life as we all do in a every day basis. Her world seems to be coming down on her to the point that she makes the decision to become a mule for a drug trafficking ring.

The movie is very well done, and even though it was produced in the US it was true to Colombia in both the Spanish spoken as well as the human interaction. The story was very well told, but a lot of the empty subplots I could easily fill in by being from that country. That is where my first issue with the movie starts. The way that Maria interacts with her family is not truly explained by the movie. Her struggle to be rebellious about giving money to her family clashes with the real reason she is becoming a mule. Her ultimate goal would be to help her family out. That is just the beginning of my problems with the movie. There are too many to bring up in just one post.

Colombians in movies are portrayed as thugs, mules or drug lords. It saddens me to see my country always portrayed that way. I cannot remember the last movie from Hollywood that I saw where a Colombian was actually in a role that showed a better face of the beautiful land that I am from. It is a reality that Colombia has problem both political and socio economic. I was born there and I never had anything to do with drug trade, my family is not involved in any way. I sometimes feel like the drug traffic is a cross that all Colombians have to bare as unfair as it might seem.

This is a movie review so I will stop my rant, and tell you that I do recommend you see the movie, but please keep in mind that while this is a window onto the life of a drug mule it does not represent all that Colombia is. Also keep in mind that this woman is doing this not because she wants to get rich, but because she believes this is a way to help her family and to help herself. While I do not agree with her Choice in the movie, I know this is the cruel reality that plenty of people have to live, not only that but many of them die as a result of it. Watch it, be open-minded and let me know what you think.

Logtar’s Rating System
* Don’t bother
**If there is nothing else in the video store
***Rent it for sure
****Go watch it in the theater today, or buy the DVD
—–

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Run Lola Run (****)

It’s difficult to create a film that’s fast paced, exciting, and aesthetically appealing without diluting its dialogue. Run Lola Run, directed and written by Tom Tykwer, is an enchanting balance of pace and narrative, creating a universal parable that leaps over cultural barriers. This is the story of young Lola (Franka Potente) and her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). In the space of 20 minutes, they must come up with 100,000 deutsche marks to pay back a seedy gangster, who will be less than forgiving when he finds out that Manni incompetently lost his cash to an opportunistic vagrant.

I think that foreign film is not just underrated but also very underexposed. It is not only fast paced and full of action, but the soundtrack never lets you go. Techno playing in the background with lyrics that are haunting (“I wish I was the hunter.”) that Franka Potente actually contributed her voice to.

The movie is beautifully shot, with excellent camera work as well as a still picture effect for different story lines that is very captivating. It makes you just sit there in expectation of what is going to happen next. I have not seen a film that has gotten me this excited since Boondock Saints. It should be available in your local video store, go rent it!

Logtar’s Rating System
* Don’t bother
**If there is nothing else in the video store
***Rent it for sure
****Go watch it in the theater today, or buy the DVD
—–

buy at Amazon.com

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