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Has Director Basil Da Cunha Delivered the New 'City of God'?

06/04/2014 14:16 BST | Updated 04/06/2014 10:59 BST

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Image credit: Box Productions/ Capricci Films

Fernando Meirelles' City of God has been a defining film of the modern age. Dubbed 'the Brazilian Goodfellas' it boasts a cyclical narrative echoing the inescapability of criminal life, a thrilling narrative of deception and dangerous dealings, and an engaging protagonist in the shape of Alexandre Rodrigues's Rocket, a kind-hearted photographer who just wants to leave the favela and its gangster underworld behind.

With so much to talk about, it has become a mainstay in A-level and degree standard Film Studies courses, and is one of the first films many students analyse academically. Not just one for the anoraks though, the 2002-released feature remains one of the most entertaining and enjoyable foreign-language films in recent memory, and still stands as one of the best gangster films of this era.

Moving on to direct Hollywood pictures like novel adaptation The Constant Gardener and impressively cast drama 360, Meirelles hasn't delivered anything quite like City of God since. Meirelles-produced Brazilian television adaptation City of Men came close, but didn't reach the dizzy heights of its producer's career-boosting predecessor. It looks like the world cinema community may have finally found an heir to Meirelles' throne though, in the shape of Basil Da Cunha.

Having previously directed a string of intriguing shorts, Da Cunha's first feature After The Night looks very promising indeed. The Portugese film's trailer has landed this week, with lots of attention-grabbing elements; gritty location shooting in Lisbon, realistically-performed character moments and a central thriller narrative fuelled by one man's desire to get some money and get out of town.

"It's a genre movie in a realistic context" explains Da Cunha, discussing his film's positioning between documentary realism and an exciting thriller narrative. "The idea is to blend that [thriller-style] cinematographic language with the reality I'm working with, leaving room for tender and authentic relations between the characters."

At the centre of this is newcomer lead Pedro Ferreira, who impresses in the two minute trailer. The snippets we see suggest a complex arc for his character Sombra, a drug-dealer recently out of prison who gets threatened by the mob, seeks revenge, befriends a local youngster, chills out with his iguana and gets in a huge amount of trouble. Without the sleek production of Hollywood movies, the tiny nuances of his performance seemingly shine through.

"The actors never rehearse and do not read the screenplay" Da Cunha claims, explaining how he nurtured such stand-out performances from his cast. "They are only given acting intentions and certain cues they can't miss" he continues. "The rest is a bit like jazz, a kind of orchestrated improvisation. They produce a kind of reinterpretation of their own lives."

This blend of realism and entertainment is what makes After The Night's trailer stand out. Well, that and the iguana. Like Meirelles' outstanding Brazilian gangster piece, this film promises great natural performances, realistic location shooting and tense edge-of-your-seat action.

Obviously a trailer can only convey so much, but this one definitely demands attention. If you've felt a hankering since 2002 for some more foreign language feature-length exploration of crime and consequences, this might just be the film you've waited for.

After The Night is out in theatres and VoD from the 25th April, check out the trailer here.

For more of Rob Leane's writing, visit his portfolio here.