SxSW 2022 Review – 32 SOUNDS

32 SOUNDS is an unusual film by Sam Green, one that’s much closer to walking through an installation art exhibit by a multimedia artist like Bruce Nauman or Nam June Paik, than it is like watching a typical documentary film. The film’s own website describes it as “an immersive documentary and profound sensory experience.”  The movie is also remarkable and different because most films never ask you to close your eyes and just listen to the film, as this one does multiple times.

While 32 SOUNDS originally premiered at Sundance online this past January, the SXSW screening was the first  in -person screening of the movie. At the screening, audience members were given headphones when they walked in, then told exactly which side of the headphone went to each ear. It was like an extreme version of stereo, as you could hear the filmmakers moving from one side of the screen to the other.

Starting with the sounds we all hear in the womb, Green then explored the world of the by focusing on different kinds of sounds. These included everything from sounds of the natural world to the sounds of avant garde music projects, especially those by composer Annea Lockwood, who is is interviewed in the film.

This very meta move even explores the impact of the role of sound in film itself. The transition from silent films to talkies was so long ago that most of us don’t even think about how sound in films impacts our viewing experience. (The inclusion of a vintage clip of an early test for producing films in stereo is remarkable.)

With all of this, 32 SOUNDS primarily serves as a meditation on the role of sound in our lives, and the power that sound has to take us back to specific events and times. Green particularly focuses on the way that sound often provides us a direct conduit to the experiences of the past, that is far more immediate than the connection we get from still photographs. Sometimes that is the past of our younger selves, sometimes that is the past of the people whom we love who are no longer with us.

You’ll never listen to the world the same way again.

This film and many others like it will be showing at South By Southwest taking place March 11-20. For more information point your browser to

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