We The Animals trailer is basically City of God without guns


No sign of the stray chicken either

Okay, so it’s not nearly as violent, doped up or dizzyingly edited as Fernando Meirelles’ and Kátia Lund’s groundbreaking movie, but look beneath the surface and We The Animals owes more to City of God’s themes of coming-of-age, brotherly bonding and identity forging than you might think from a first glance. American director Jeremiah Zagar’s adaptation of the 2011 Justin Torres debut novel is more than just a little bit of a nostalgia fix, and it’s like City of God in a lot of ways - strung between a rocky upbringing and the pure joy of being a kid and running around topless.

It’s already been a sensation at Sundance this year, with Zagar snapping up the NEXT Innovator award - and the warm, portrait-hour glow of the poster makes it easy to see why. This story centers on three brothers in upstate New York in the 1980s: they are brilliantly represented by first-time actors Isaiah Kristian (Manny), Josiah Gabriel (Joel) and Evan Rosado (Jonah), and even from the trailer it’s clear that their natural acting seems perfect for a documentary-like feature complete with underage drug use, alcohol, and a pretty violent home life.

The trailer, which has just been released, throws us into the middle of a story that involves the struggle between dual ethnicities: Paps, played by Raúl Castillo (Unsane; Gotham), is Puerto Rican, while Ma (Sheila Vand - Argo; A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) is white. Throughout the movie, the brothers learn all the basics of life - you know, shoplifting, riding bikes into lakes - but inevitably become different people as they grow up. In particular, the youngest, Jonah, must discover his own identity. Ma, in an early shot, says “I wish you would stay nine forever” and his childhood nostalgia is what we get.

Building on Zagar’s experience with documentaries (In A Dream; Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart), I’m having a hard time not seeing the similarities between this and City of God, which was based on Paulo Lins’ autobiographical novel set in the Rio favelas in the 1960s-80s. We The Animals aims to show life from the perspective of teenage boys in a no less tough environment - I get the feeling that there’s going to be a lot less point-blank shooting and getting high on scorching beaches, but it will definitely be worth watching. Screenwriter Dan Kitrosser gets the tension of living in deprived conditions and fighting to get out, which as we know from City of God, can be hellish to live with, but not impossible to make a run from.

The official synopsis for We The Animals is here:

We the Animals is a visceral coming-of-age story propelled by layered performances from its astounding cast – including three talented, young first-time actors – and stunning animated sequences which bring Jonah’s torn inner world to life. Drawing from his documentary background, director Jeremiah Zagar creates an immersive portrait of working-class family life and brotherhood.

 We The Animals will be released in theaters in the US on August 17. 

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Sian Francis Cox
Sian Francis Cox   gamer profile

Sian is Flixist’s UK Editor and has written for sites including Escapist Magazine, Destructoid, and Film Enthusiast. more + disclosures



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