Such searing dialogue has helped make City of God a global hit. A chronicle of three decades of gang wars, it has proved compelling viewing for audiences worldwide. Critics compare it to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
If you believe the cultural pessimists, Hollywood pap has driven out films like Cidade de Deus, as it is known in its home country. It is a Brazilian film, in Portuguese, by a little-known director, with a cast that includes no professional actors, let alone Hollywood stars. Its focus is not a person at all, but a drug-ridden, dirt-poor favela (slum) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro that feels as remote from the playground of the rich and famous as it does from God.
Yet City of God has not only made millions at the box office, it has also sparked a national debate in Brazil. It has raised awareness in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere of the terrible poverty and violence of the developing world. All that, and it makes you wince, weep, and, yes, laugh. Not bad for a film distributed by Miramax, which is owned by Disney, one of those big global companies that globaphobes compare to cultural vandals.
A lot of nonsense about the impact of globalization on culture passes for conventional wisdom these days. Among the pro-globalizers, Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times and author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), believes that globalization is "globalizing American culture and American cultural icons." Among the antis, Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist and author of No Logo (Picador, 2000), argues that "the buzzword in global marketing isn’t selling America to the world, but bringing a kind of market masala to everyone in the world. … Despite the embrace of polyethnic imagery,