Between 2007 and 2010, Nicolas Pereda wrote and directed four features, bashed out an hour-long, installation-style video piece, and made a short film during what must have counted as his spare time. Often, that’s the schedule of an artist on a hobbyhorse (or else a factory line). But Pereda has taken this relentless work ethic and pushed it to an abstractly exhilarating new place.
Unseeable outside short engagements and film festivals (including Cannes and Venice), Pereda’s fast-amassing oeuvre gets the retrospective treatment at Anthology in a one-week run starting Friday. You can forget turning to Netflix afterward; the director doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet. (And press reports seem to disagree how old the Mexico City–born twentysomething is, precisely—though Anthology says 27.)
Pereda’s four full-lengths aren’t just linked by their narrative concern with Mexico’s contemporary poor; most of them also star a mother-son dyad played by actors Teresa Sanchez and Gabino Rodriguez. And in every single film except Where Are Their Stories?—Pereda’s impressively assured debut—their characters bear the actors’ real-life first names.
Yet the works don’t serve as sequels or prequels to one another. If these characters are always engaged in acts of subsistence-maintenance, they are still easily differentiated. Soldier-boy Gabino, from Pereda’s latest, Summer of Goliath, is a sadistic prick compared to the sweet kid in Juntos who just wants to find his dog and cool down the scalding-hot water coming out of his tap. The films’ Mother Teresa also evolves. Merely put upon by the lazy, house-mover version of Gabino in Perpetuum Mobile, she spends Goliath cursing out and fighting with her ex-husband’s suspected objects of affection (male and female).
You can’t help but see the populist impulse in Pereda’s work, as when his Godard-y “opening” credits crack in way late (after the 20-minute mark) during Stories as a rhythmic surprise to remind you that a) yes, you are watching a movie, and b) why aren’t there more movies about the poor, anyway? Thankfully, such noble concerns avoid trending toward uncomplicated sentimentality. The range of his characters—cheats, pranksters, layabouts, and honest hardworking types—makes it clear that Pereda really wants to investigate the margins he can’t stop filming.
Influences from the entire International Slow-Pace Cinema School are naturally operating throughout, but Pereda has some innovations. The is-it-doc-or-not? language of Goliath will remind some of Miguel Gomes’s brilliantly indirect Our Beloved Month of August. But with Pereda, the answer is knowable; his filmography is littered with self-referential clues. (Hint: If attending both, see Juntos before Perpetuum Mobile. And don’t miss the early Pereda short Interview With the Earth, which screens at Anthology alongside Stories.) And anyone who saw Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere as a triumph of technique over substance should check out this director’s way with a deliberate wind-up.
The least satisfying screening in a movie-theater context is probably the one-hour video piece “All Things Were Now Overtaken by Silence,” which is more a documentary about Pereda’s crew lighting the staged recitation of a poem than an actual reading of the work. Still, if contemplating going all in, you should see that, too. This is one of those weeks when the tax-deductible, ticket-discount-granting membership at Anthology feels like a purely selfish investment.