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Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds

Kleber Mendonça Filho, O som ao redor (Neighboring Sounds), 2012, still from a color film in 35 mm, 131 minutes. João (Gustavo Jahn) and Sophia (Irma Brown).

“THIS IS NO FAVELA, MAN,” a late-adolescent scion snarls to a thirtyish security guard in Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s stunning Neighboring Sounds. Though there are no shacks or shanties in this ambitious debut feature, class and racial tensions and a generalized paranoia inform, however subtly, every interaction—the resentments and misunderstandings reverberating as a low-level thrum, much like the barely perceptible sounds that subliminally score the film. Set in a well-off oceanfront neighborhood in Recife, a city of four million in northeastern Brazil—where the director himself, a former film critic, lives—Neighboring Sounds burrows deep to expose the unarticulated though ever-present sense of dread gripping its bourgeois characters. Like the prosperous Recife residents living in free-floating fear of invasion and assault, the viewer is also guarded,

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