Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s debut feature Neighboring Sounds finally makes it to L.A. screens this week, preceded by a host of awards from film festivals around the world. The movie opened in New York City last August and was ranked the 20th Best Film of 2012 in Film Comment‘s annual critics’ poll; why it took this long to reach the supposed film capital of L.A. — less than a month before the U.S. DVD and Blu-Ray release — will have to be parsed by someone more versed in the dark arts of foreign film distribution in the U.S. than me.
But kudos to L.A.’s Cinefamily theatre for booking the movie for a week-long run, and for creating their own, excellent trailer for the film (see below). The Cinefamily is even bringing director Mendonça in for a Q&A following the Saturday night show. Mendonça is a former film critic and film programmer who, prior to Neighboring Sounds, had made a few horror shorts (he’s a passionate John Carpenter fan) and experimental works, so it’s likely he’ll be an articulate guest.
I’ve been curious about Neighboring Sounds ever since Mendonça spoke to The New York Times last summer:
“Brazilian film has to break the mold,” he said, adding that “99 percent of Brazilian filmmakers are middle class or upper middle class or bourgeois, as I am, yet most of the time they’re making films about people they don’t know that much about and subjects they haven’t mastered. We need more films that don’t take place in a favela or the backlands and aren’t about some guy who is really poor and living beneath a bridge. Maybe then we can talk about a new Brazilian aesthetic.”
Set in an emphatically middle-class milieu (here the city of Recife), Neighboring Sounds marks a shift from the Brazilian movies that tend to make it to the U.S. Mendonça is out to depict the growing pains of the prosperous Brazil of the 21st century, moving past tourist-brochure stereotypes from decades ago and the more recent images of the country as a giant slum populated by warring gangsters.
Described by the director as “a melodrama that would rather be a thriller,” Neighboring Sounds looks at a neighborhood in the midst of a building boom, and how a private security firm preys on the residents’ worries about crime. Reviews suggest that Mendonca’s past experience with the horror genre has served him well in building up an ominous, tense atmosphere, even though this isn’t a genre film.
Between next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, we’re going to be hearing a lot about Brazil in the next few years. It’ll be good to have Mendonça’s native POV as a reference point to keep in mind as American TV networks descend on São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. More important, by all accounts Neighboring Sounds is a darn good movie, which of course is reason enough to see it this week (or to put it in your queue).
Watch the trailer for Neighboring Sounds here, and scroll down below for showtimes: