New Directors/New Films, on the Run and with the Locals

03/23/2011 4:00 AM |

Pereda, who was born in Mexico but lives and works in Toronto, is more blunt when asked about national-cinema movements. “I don’t think about it too much,” says the 27-year-old director, whose extensive output over the past four years—three features and an excellent short, 2009’s Interview With the Earth—marks him a prolific as well as a prodigious talent. “As a filmmaker I don’t feel the need to associate myself with any country. I would say that a big part of my personal identity is being Canadian, but as a filmmaker it is harder to say. I identify with filmmakers around the world.”

Certainly, critics who have evaluated Pereda’s work have noticed correspondences with other films: many of the reviews for Summer of Goliath have cited Miguel Gomes’s Our Beloved Month of August and Matthew Porterfield’s Putty Hill as possible influences or analogues. These comparisons make sense insofar as Summer of Goliath feels like a collaboration between a filmmaker and his real-life subjects—in this case the rural Mexican community of Huliotepec, a place of sweltering natural beauty and oppressive poverty. In lieu of a plot, Pereda offers oblique portraiture, introducing us to a cast of local characters—like the eponymous 16-year old boy who is suspected of murdering his girlfriend—and observing them as they interact with one another and their environment.

Pereda has a definite talent for duration. If his sequences feel drawn-out (often in real time) it’s usually in the service of building to something, whether it’s a revelation, a joke, or both: in the film’s funniest and most memorable scene, Teresa (Teresa Sanchez) takes an agonizingly long time to write a letter to her absent husband and asks her son to learn it by heart (shades of Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth) only to have him take it to somebody else to memorize behind her back. Throughout the film, naturalism and absurdism exist in an uneasy but impressive balance.

What’s unclear—and intriguingly so—is the extent to which the eccentricity has been captured or cultivated by the filmmaker That Pereda describes working with professional actors in addition to the locals confirms Summer of Goliath as an example of what Robert Koehler calls “the cinema of in-between.” “I feel like the words ‘fiction’ and ‘documentary’ should not be used anymore,” says Pereda by way of describing his hybridized aesthetic. “Maybe they serve some purpose to catalogue films, but they have connotations that do a disservice to the filmmaking community, to the films and to the audience.”

” I like that the question that you asked refers to ‘documentary techniques,'” he continues, “because that is all documentary is: a series of tools that filmmakers use to put forward an idea about the world, just as fiction filmmakers use their own tools for the same purpose. All I do is mix techniques. Ultimately, all the scenes are a point of view on reality. None of the scenes are reality itself, and non of the scenes are fake. It’s all a construction to put across my feelings towards particular subjects and ideas.”