Published Nov 21, 2012As Mexico-born Nicolás Pereda's fifth film, Summer of Goliath, unfolds, the subtle blurring between fact and fiction, or documentary and narrative, helps solidify the influences and experimental nature of the cinematically literate director. Where his earlier works played as a series of tableaux, lingering on their subjects to exaggerate time-wasted, a sense of feeling lost or having a lack of defined purpose, Goliath seeks to heighten this concept by reiterating his preoccupation with the quotidian, but juxtaposing it with more aggressive and horrifying real-world applications.
It's as though his early proclivities, rehashing the style of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, both in contemplative shot composition and the focusing on natural environments clashing with man, or reaching for the reflective heights of greats like Yasujirô Ozu or Theodoros Angelopoulos, have been melded with the docufiction tendencies of early Abbas Kiarostami, or, similar to peer Miguel Gomes, Robert Flaherty.
The result is a tenuous work of great potential, opening with an interview with a boy claiming innocence after being accused of killing his girlfriend in her bed, while the rest of the film shows interviews with the many people certain of his guilt. Amidst these discussions with the many lost children and single mothers, fearful of the hyper-violent boys (playing men) around them, a narrative unfolds with the recently single Teresa (Teresa Sanchez) struggling to raise her deadbeat son Gabino (Gabino Rodriguez) and find him the employment that she lacks.
Evident throughout the film is the absence of responsible male role models, leaving mothers to raise sons unsuccessfully, being unable to compete with the external undefined influences, such as reckless indulgence and unnecessary soldiering. It's this misinterpretation of manhood as oppressive force—be that as obvious a political metaphor as it may be—that drives Summer of Goliath forward, with women merely making the most of what is left for them in a dilapidated society where they're left to rely on, fear and guide the men around them.
In concept, this structure and thematic assertion is quite intriguing and fits the trajectory of Pereda's career. But there's something a little too deliberately borrowed and affected about the entire work that suggests cinematic literacy, but little personal vision or confidence.
In time, once Pereda develops his own language free from the need of academic validation, he could prove to be a great director. And Summer of Goliath is an excellent example of that potential growing in an intriguing direction.
Summer of Goliath screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Where are the Films of Nicolás Pereda? retrospective at 7pm on Saturday, November 24th. (IMCINE)