Continuing our series on the films we would have been showing this season, and connected films we recommend. This week we would have been screening Brazilian film BACURAU, a modern revenge western revolving around a rural community that finds itself the target of a commercial hunt in a bleak near-future.
The people of Bacurau, a small rural settlement in a near-future Brazil, gather to mourn the death of the village’s matriarch. But there’s little time to dwell on the sad event as bizarre things start happening. The tanker that brings the village its fresh water is attacked, animals stampede through the streets, strange drones appear in the sky, and empty coffins turn up stacked at the roadside. When the village disappears from online maps and satellite navigation systems, some of the residents panic and flee, only to find that they are being hunted down by unknown assailants. Who is attacking the village, why, and can the people fight back?
Bringing attention to issues of real relevance to modern Brazil such as environmental degradation, deceitful politics, racism, and the social isolation of rural communities, the film has won prizes around the world including the Grand Jury Prize (and a Palme d’Or nomination) at Cannes. With a daring, genre-blending narrative that explodes into a brutal and bloody third act, BACURAU is essential viewing. Originally released on MUBI and still available on that service’s new Library feature, the film can also be found on Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon and Apple TV.
Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, the writers and directors of BACURAU, also worked together the 2012 film NEIGHBORING SOUNDS, which is our recommended film of the week. Filho wrote and directed his debut feature, with Dornelles as Production Designer, in a film that also sees underdogs coming up against powerful and mysterious foes, but in the very different setting of a middle class urban neighbourhood.
A history of violence and oppression threatens to engulf the residents of an affluent seaside community. A palpable sense of unease hangs over a single city block in the coastal town of Recife, Brazil. Home to prosperous families and the servants who work for them, the area is ruled by an aging patriarch and his sons. When a private security firm is reluctantly brought in to protect the residents from a recent spate of petty crime, it unleashes the fears, anxieties and resentments of a divided society still haunted by its troubled past. It’s a film about the desires and anxieties of a social class uncertain of its place in the world, but also about the loss of places that root a community in shared history. The film is anchored in realism but ventures into realms bordering on fantasy to show us how its characters perceive the ways in which their neighbourhood has changed over time.
NEIGHBORING SOUNDS was received with critical acclaim, particular praise being given for its incredibly detailed and immersive sound design. It’s “scary, funny, mischievous, intelligent, magisterial, a picture of man and woman as a social animal in which the animal never lurks far beneath the social” (Financial Times). It won prizes at award ceremonies and festivals not just across South America but around the world. It can be found to buy or rent on a range of digital platforms.