Former film critic Kleber Mendonça Filho, after a couple of decades making short films, experimental videos and documentaries, made an enticing feature filmmaking debut with Neighbouring Sounds – on one hand a low-key ensemble drama on character inter-dynamics, while, on the other, a quietly seething portrayal of urban affluence, and in turn a caustic indication to how prosperity is often achieved through exploitation and expropriations. The latter aspect – and the themes of class oppression and wilful compromises on social equity in Brazil – is something that Filho would continue to explore in ever bolder ways in his subsequent films, viz. Aquarius and Bacurau. Contained nearly completely within a well-to-do Racife neighbourhood of apartment blocks, the film’s key characters interact within this compact space – Francisco (W.J. Solha), a wealthy and powerful former sugar baron who once owned all the real estate in the area; Francisco’s smooth-talking nephew João (Gustavo Jahn) who’s operating as the ageing patriarch’s property agent; Bia (Maeve Jinkings), a housewife mom who secretly smokes pot and is tormented by a neighbour’s barking dog; and Clodoaldo (Irandhir Santos), a working-class hustler who sets up on overnight security watch for the residents. That all the apartments are already equipped with cameras, high walls and whatnot, and the street thefts are largely carried out by Francisco’s own delinquent son (Yuri Holanda), added a sharp commentary on the urban affluent’s paranoia with security and protection from untrustworthy “outsiders”. The movie had an understated atmosphere of ominous foreboding throughout its generous length – right from the strikingly evocative B/W photographs it begins with, and which becomes clearer as the narrative sauntered towards a muted payoff – though that could’ve perhaps been enhanced by a tighter structuring.
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Ensemble Film