Nicolás Pereda has rapidly become a ubiquitous name on the international festival circuit. Two of his films, The Absent and The Palace, were on our list of must-see films in last year’s Art of the Real Program. His work has been screened at Locarno, Venice and Montreal. Often complicated by a signature blend of fiction and nonfiction, his work is most easily characterized by what it isn’t. Pereda’s films aren’t exactly narrative, nor are they documentaries in any conventional sense. Rather, his primary motivation often seems to be the blurring of these lines in the interest of telling a broader story, unblemished by the petulant details of specific plotting.
One of his best films is currently featured in Doc Alliance’s end-of-year showcase, alongside such titles as Maidan and Foreign Parts. Summer of Goliath won an award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival and went on to receive a Best Actress nomination at the Ariel Awards, Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscars. The actress in question is Teresa Sánchez, a frequent Pereda collaborator. In Summer of Goliath she plays a woman on the hunt for her recently disappeared husband, possibly into the arms of another. Her soldier son Gabino (Gabino Rodríguez, another Pereda regular) somewhat begrudgingly helps her out.
Yet this is only the longest thread in this remarkably broad film. The subject town of Huilotepec has many stories. Pereda doesn’t tell them all, instead inhabiting a few and letting them linger. The title comes from the first local tale, which unfolds in the form of interviews with local children. Goliath is just a nickname, one which a young man named Oscar picked up after his girlfriend died and everyone in town assumed that he did it. The truth of that assumption isn’t sussed out here, however. Pereda is more interested in spending time in their world, exploring the beautiful landscapes and dark interiors of Huilotepec through quietly observant long takes. The result is a rewarding meditation on the borders of storytelling.
Watch Summer of Goliath courtesy of Doc Alliance, free through January 3rd.