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32 Sounds Review | SXSW2022

Academy Award-nominated documentarian Sam Green has always been curious about the role that sound plays in his life and the little details that come with it so he decided to make a documentary capturing the phenomenon of sound and its ability to cross borders and shape the perception of how we see (and hear) the world via thirty-two different sounds. It is an interesting concept that displays how sound affects, not only our daily lives, but our memories, as well. Sam Green also prompts the questions “Do sounds die?” and “How do recordings trigger the various emotions one experiences?”.

The diverse sounds in this feature come from various places, things, and crafts: the bell of a high tower, waves crashing, a cat purring, an ominous night with crickets chirping in the background, a box of matches, or even the voice of American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Green encourages the audience to wear headphones for a better, spatial experience. And let me tell you, it is very much an impressive one. Just like Alexandre Koberidze did with his feature What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, there are moments where we’re told to close our eyes. The purpose here is to indulge in the sonic atmosphere being played. 

Nevertheless, there are some minor faults in this doc. Although the concept is intriguing, as I stated earlier, it goes on for longer than it should. Several sequences last a long time, and it becomes less engaging as the film progresses from sound to sound. The most entertaining sections are ones where a scientist uses a dummy figure to showcase how we hear things in real life versus movies or TV and where we see a foley artist at work. It’s more of an art installation rather than a feature documentary. Sam Green’s 32 Sounds would probably be more effective with the live score and narration that is intended to be playing while watching it.


By Hector Gonzalez

Hector Gonzalez is a Puerto Rican chemical engineering student and film critic with a great passion for cinema, award shows, 1960s music, and the horror genre. Some of his favorite films are RAW, Eyes Without a Face, and The Green Ray.

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