City Of God Essays

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In the last few decades, a resurgence of “slum tourism” – a practice born in Victorian London – has taken off, with cinema contributing its fair share to the growing numbers behind this ethically iffy travel phenomenon.Through both narrative and aesthetical choices, these films imbue their impoverished settings with so much sensorial richness that the slum ends up figuring as a character in their own right.Audiences have lapped up these depictions with zeal, with thousands each year converting their armchair fascination into action by visiting these low-income locations as part of guided “slum tours”.Firstly, it has to be recognised that the real favela differs greatly from the ‘reel’ version.Although is loosely based on a real first-hand account of life in a favela in the ’80s, it is not a documentary — this is something that should be obvious given the film’s hyperbolic approach to style and narrative.As the favela’s population expands onscreen, the petty crime we see in the film’s earlier scenes turn darker and more ubiquitous.Women are beaten, raped and killed by jealous men, drug-dealers pick each other off in crowded clubs, and innocent residents are caught up and gunned down in the streets.Favela tours had existed prior to the film’s release, but as Brazilian academic Bianca Freire-Medeiros (who specialises in favela tourism studies) has found, ’s role in the increase in favela tourism, and found that all interviewees agreed: the movie was “largely responsible” for the boom.“After the movie…Rio de Janeiro favelas became…hyped”, Leandro Firmino (who played the capricious Lil Zé in the film) told interviewers in a follow-up documentary to the movie, titled .While some tour companies (like Mumbai’s Reality Tours and Rio’s Favela Tour) are committed to affirming the dignity of the people who live in the slums they visit — forbidding photographs and encouraging positive cultural exchange — other operators adopt a hands-off approach, permitting a kind of feedback loop that validates tourists’ problematic assumptions about the places they’re visiting.This is where the charge of perverse voyeurism is usually levelled: at the image of tourists (usually white and Western) undertaking tours of poorer, largely non-white neighborhoods for pure entertainment.

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