The black and white photos that fill the screen at the start of Neighboring Sounds (O som ao redor) call up a history at once personal and collective, possessing and possessed by the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife. A family stares into the camera, an old woman gives an interview, her face gaunt and poster straight, a group of workers stand with tools raised high, their sandals and hats indicating they toil in heat, perhaps in the fields that appear in some shots that follow, and likely not in the fine homes that loom in others.
Visual and sound effects reveal how surveillance and expectations of same have altered our understanding of the world and our place in it. The movie goes on to link past and present, interrogate class divides, and consider how the idea of space—domestic, communal, private, public—is changing. While one neighbor is anxious about how the sounds she’s been hearing (a dog barking, traffic) infiltrate her quiet space, another worries about more physical incursions, with thefts on the rise and boundaries broken. The film shows that space is never quite contained, that safety cannot be guaranteed, that no one lives in one realm only.
Neighboring Sounds opens for one week in Los Angeles at Cinefamily, April 5-11.
See PopMatters’ review.