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Neighbouring Sounds

O som ao redor

A tense, bold and fiercely compelling portrait of urban life in modern-day Brazil.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

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  • Director-Screenwriter Kleber Mendonça Filho
  • Producer Emilie Lesclaux
  • With Irma Brown, Sebastião Formiga, Gustavo Jahn
  • Brazil 2012
  • 131 mins
  • UK distribution Artificial Eye

A dazzling ensemble drama, Neighbouring Sounds is set among a handful of residents in a middle-class street in the northern Brazilian city of Recife. Focusing on the appearance of a gang of private security guards who offer householders the promise of protection, writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho offers revealing fragments of a society frayed by paranoia. A young man wakes up to find his girlfriend’s car has been broken into. A mother struggles to sleep, disturbed by the barking of guard dogs next door. An ageing patriarch seeks refuge from the tumult of the ever-changing city in the rural peace of his one-time plantation hideaway. The results thrillingly defy categorisation, but what emerges under Filho’s precise, quietly virtuoso direction is a film of novelistic richness and sly provocation; a kind of urban horror story about the fear of violence that ripples under the fragile poise of everyday middle-class life in Brazil. One thing’s for sure: this is a directorial debut of astonishing assurance.
Edward Lawrenson

Director statement

Recife, in the state of Pernambuco, is Brazil’s fifth largest city, and it shares most of the problems common to large urban areas in the country, or in Latin America. Setúbal is the younger, quieter neighbour of Boa Viagem, the city’s most expensive real estate, an area now taken over by tall buildings of all shapes and sizes. Setúbal is a smaller, more family oriented urban neighbourhood. It is now the natural destination of developments in the new booming economy which don’t find any room left for building in Boa Viagem. These are coastal neighbourhoods, benefiting from a good-looking urban beach, but a seaside cursed since the early 90s by a series of deadly shark attacks. Setúbal is the setting of Neighbouring Sounds. Most of this film comes from notes on life happening just across the street, or right outside my window, or on the neighbour’s roof. The peculiar tensions which make Brazilian society tick are also reflected in the weight and look of local architecture, which is chaotically eclectic. The film has an underlining idea of straight lines and right angles on a widescreen 2.35:1 frame which limits characters and their movements as much as do walls, gates, grates and doors. To allow room for breathing, I opened up the shots generously. This approach to filming architecture both as friend and enemy is present in some of my short films, especially 2005’s Eletrodoméstica. In this film, one might be able to notice the tropical brightness of cement and concrete sharing screen space with the characters. In 2009’s Cold Tropics, a completely different approach was taken (the film is a mockumentary) to address urban planning (or the lack of) in a city that, for all practical purposes, is becoming cold and impersonal. Architecture gone wrong is a nuisance, but extremely photogenic. Neighbouring Sounds finds its heart in the human element as it tries to deal with everyday life in such an environment. We have a group of characters; men, women and children with their own inner and outer tensions. They are also part of a social landscape of masters and servants which may even look modern, but its very foundations are not. These class relations are addressed not only in the way servants gain restricted access to the property of the masters (cars, houses, apartments), but also in the way the rich live out a paranoid life through the crippling fear of urban violence. Fear is once again expressed as architecture, be it on the ugly designs of steel grates, gates, electric fences and high perimeter walls, or on remnants of a local history marked by late-19th-century slavery which finds in the quartos de empregada (maid’s room, still part of modern architectural design) an obvious sign of racism as hot, windowless traps. As a final note, the sound. The very organic nature of life in such an environment seems to have so many different layers of sound at any time of day. They are not only cues to people living their lives in private, but also information about loneliness, joy, neurosis, happiness or fear, no matter how noisy a place can be, or how quiet.
Kleber Mendonça Filho

Director biography

Born in 1968 in Recife, in North-eastern Brazil, he graduated in journalism and has worked extensively as a film critic and also as a film programmer in Recife’s main alternative cinema. In the 90s he made documentaries, experimental films and fiction in video. Over the last decade, his short films have won over 100 awards in Brazil and abroad, with selections at Karlovy-Vary, BAFICI, Rotterdam (where a retrospective of his films was part of the 2007 programme), Rencontres Cinémas d’Amérique Latine de Toulouse, Indie Lisboa, Clermont-Ferrand and Cannes (Director’s Fortnight). His first feature, the documentary Crítico, focused on the troubled relationship between filmmakers and critics through a personal series of interviews recorded over a period of eight years. Neighbouring Sounds is his first fiction feature.


1992 Casa de imagem [s]; Homem de projeção [doc s]
1997 Enjaulado [s]
2003 A menina do algodão [s]
2004 Vinil verde [s]
2005 Eletrodoméstica [s]
2006 Noite de sexta, manhã de sábado [s]
2008 Crítico [doc]
2009 Luz industrial mágica [s]
2010 Recife Frio (Cold Tropics) [s]
2012 O som ao redor (Neighbouring Sounds)

Read the Time Out review.

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