It’s rare for a film in Spanish or Portuguese to make it to a U.S. theater. But this week is a big one for Latin American cinema. Two award-winning films opened theatrically this past Friday, Venezuelan soccer drama Hermano and Neighboring Sounds, a meditation on the divide between Brazil’s social classes. They both touch on the effects of violence in South America but handle the topic in completely different ways. It’s a testament to the flourishing Latin American film scene that these movies offer contrasting points of view and use a completely different set of aesthetics to tell their stories. They are both worth a look and may be playing at a theater near you.Hermano
Director: Marcel Rasquín
Venezuela | 2010 | 97 min
In Spanish with English subtitles
Venezuela’s official submission for the 2011 Best Foreign Language Academy Award, Hermano tells the story of two young men, Julio and Daniel, raised as brothers after Daniel was found, when he was a baby, lying on the sidewalk surrounded by piles of trash and garbage bags. Though fiercely competitive on the soccer field, they are inseparable. Their dedication to the sport pays off when they are offered the chance to try out for a local professional team. The pressure is enormous as this may offer them the only way out of the Caracas slum they grew up in and allow Julio a chance to sever his ties to the local criminal element. Then, a violent tragedy strikes, threatening their brotherly bond and the shared opportunity for a better life. Although it suffers from melodramatic acting, the film–part soccer movie, family drama, and gangster crime flick–with its high stakes and emotional intensity, offers a heartfelt portrait of a family stuck in the slums and trying to fight their way out.
A huge release for a Latin American film, Hermano is currently playing in New York and in over 20 cities across the country including Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco.O som ao redor (Neighboring Sounds)
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Brazil | 2012 | 131 min
In Portuguese with English subtitles
Kleber Mendonça Filho was a journalist, film critic and programmer who decided, after years of reviewing films, to make one of his own. He wrote a script based on his observations of everyday life in his native city of Recife in Brazil. He wrote about what he saw when he looked out the window. He watched his neighbors and the servants who live with them and was struck by the palpable uneasiness, the feeling that something bad was about to happen. The result is Neighboring Sounds, a slice of life in a quiet middle-class neighborhood where rising crime has put everyone on edge. The characters are encaged by their own fear and the buildings they live in. They are always behind locked doors and gates and stare out of windows that are criss-crossed with metal bars. The camera follows the characters as they watch each other using security cameras and binoculars–there is a constant state of surveillance and of tension. The creaking noises and menacing score forces the audience to exist in the same state of heightened anxiety as do the characters they are watching on the screen. You just never know what might happen next.
Neighboring Sounds is now playing in New York at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (Lincoln Center) and the IFC Center with a national release to follow.