City of God is a housing project built in the 1960's that - in the early 80's - became one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro. The tale tells the stories of many characters whose lives sometimes intersect. However, all is seen through the eyes of a singular narrator: Buscape, a poor black youth too frail and scared to become an outlaw but also to smart to be content with underpaid, menial jobs.
He grows up in a very violent environment. Buscape soon discovers that he can see reality differently than others. His redemption is that he's been given an artist's point of view as a keen-eyed photographer. As Buscape is not the real protagonist of the film - only the narrator - he is not the one who makes the decisions that will determine the sequence of events. It is also through Buscape's perspective of life that one can understand the complicated layers and humanity of a world, apparently condemned to endless violence.