City of God is one of my favorite films because it features children getting shot.
Not that I enjoy watching kids get hurt. It's pretty traumatizing, in fact. But I love what onscreen killing of minors represents.
It shows director Fernando Meirelles doesn't pull punches. This 2002 drama about the slums of Rio de Janeiro is gritty, dark, and depressing, everything a slum movie should be, to the point of making the viewer feel uncomfortable. And it's beautiful.
The film (Cidade de Deus in Portuguese) is rated R, but even still, if I were a distributing company or a movie theater, I think "murdering small children" would be pretty high up there on my Top Ten Things Not to Show Audiences list. Meirelles could've easily taken this scene out of the movie and still had a great piece of filmmaking, but he foregoes potential profits for realism and artistry, and I respect that enormously.
The story follows a kid named Rocket growing up in the "City of God," as the slum is named, in the '60s and '70s. Rocket just wants to leave and become a photographer. But he's surrounded by crime. Although he's the main character and narrator of the film, he really isn't the focus of the movie. He's a vessel for the audience to see what goes on in the Cidade de Deus, children learning to fire a gun almost as soon as they learn to walk. Some kids want to get out, others embrace it; all of them are swallowed up in the violence. The rich people want nothing to do with them, the cops are corrupt, and the children are left to fend for themselves.
There really are no significant adult characters in City of God. Cars are held up by young children with pistols, and the drug cartels and gangs are all created by teenagers. A 12-year-old kid asserts,
"A kid? I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man."
The film asks the question, does this make you a man? I couldn't help but think of the endless connections to William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Kids are thrown into the wild and left to their own devices. Trying to create some sort of organized society, they end up killing each other. It's a very Thomas Hobbes way of looking at the world. And as City of God illustrates, it's incredibly circular. If one drug lord is killed, another will take his place. It never ends. Warriors forget why they're fighting, only remember that they have to fight. And it continues to this day.