March 3, 2024

Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment is gearing up to release iconic Oscar-nominated Rio de Janeiro gangland drama City of God across the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

Co-directed by Brazilian directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, the movie made waves back in 2002 for its realistic depiction of the rise of gang violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro with a young unprofessional cast.

Dubai-based Front Row originally released the film straight to DVD in the Gulf due to a variety of local restrictions but some two decades later is pushing on with a theatrical release in a sign of how the region is opening up.

Front Row’s planned February 22 release coincides with the 21st anniversary of the movie’s 2003 theatrical release following its Out of Competition world premiere at Cannes in 2002, and also ties in with a global re-release on February 23.

The initiative also coincides with Front Row’s 20th Anniversary.

“The film holds a special place in our hearts; it was our first acquisition, and at the time we couldn’t release it theatrically due to language restrictions imposed by cinemas, and also because we couldn’t afford the budget it needed to stand out, so it went straight to DVD,” says Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra.

“We’ve come a long way since, and City of God remains an unforgettable masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the silver screen. What better way of celebrating our 20th?”

Front Row is co-distributing City of God with The Festival Agency, led by Leslie Vuchot, who acquired the rights from Wild Bunch.

The partnership is part of drive by Front Row to release a number of classics in the Gulf region that were not presented on the big screen first time round.

Its other recent re-releases include Old Boy, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

The company re-released Luc Besson’s Leon and is planning to bring the French director’s cult film The Fifth Element back to the big screen in the region soon.

Chakra says the team is committed to re-releasing classics and cult films, especially in Saudi Arabia which is enjoying a cinema renaissance following the lifting of the its 35-year year ban on cinema theatres at the end of 2017.

City of God was nominated in four categories at the 76th Academy Award but went home empty handed. However, it regularly features on critics lists as one of the top films of all time and is ranked #25 on IMDB with an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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