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culture

Here Are the Films of Nicolás Pereda

TIFF's Lightbox showcases the internationally acclaimed works of the Mexican-Canadian filmmaker.

Gabino Rodríguez and Luisa Pardo, two of Nicolás Pereda's regular players, in Juntos.

Where Are the Films of Nicolás Pereda?
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
November 22–25
Tickets $12 each

Like TIFF’s recent spotlight on the films of Mia Hansen-Løve, the latest Lightbox retrospective is very much a forward-looking affair. Its subject is 30-year-old Mexican-Canadian filmmaker Nicolás Pereda, who, since completing his MFA at York University in 2007, has been heralded as a key emerging talent on the contemporary art-cinema scene. His prodigious output—six features and a short in five years—has made him a fixture of the international festival circuit, where he claimed the avant-garde-focused Orrizonti prize at Venice in 2010. No less prestigious is the fact that Pereda was named among the “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50” by Cinema Scope, alongside influences like Lisandro Alonso, Jia Zhangke, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Pereda has recently been feted at venerable film institutions in New York, Chicago, and L.A., but Where Are the Films of Nicolás Pereda? is the first series of his collected works to screen in the city he now calls home.

Pereda himself will be on hand to introduce each film, beginning with Thursday evening’s presentation of his first feature, Where Are Their Stories? (6:30 p.m.). Originally completed as his thesis project, his bumpkin-in-the-big-city debut serves as a thesis statement in the broader sense, establishing the core tenets of the cinematic vision Pereda has continued to re-articulate with every subsequent endeavour. Combining rigorous formalism with semi-improvised performances, deadpan humour, and a keen sense of the everyday struggles of working-class Mexicans, Stories provides the template that has seen Pereda compared to the likes of Pedro Costa, Tsai Ming-liang, and Aki Kaurismäki. Stories also introduces two of Pereda’s perennial leading players, Teresa Sánchez and Gabino Rodríguez, who feature throughout the director’s highly self-referential filmography as variations on the same, perpetually squabbling, mother and son.

Gabino Rodríguez and Francisco Barreiro as two of Mexico City's least motivated movers in Perpetuum Mobile.

Luisa Pardo and Francisco Barreiro, the other members of Pereda’s recurring troupe, make their first appearances in Juntos (Thursday, 8:45 p.m.). Cited in TIFF’s synopsis as perhaps Pereda’s least-seen work, his sophomore effort is our top pick, along with Friday night’s screening of its not-quite-sequel, Perpetuum Mobile (6:30 p.m.). Alternately droll and poignant, both films offer perceptive explorations of deteriorating social relations among Mexico City residents of different classes. In Juntos, Gabino and Luisa are excellent as a young couple whose already-strained relationship is severely tested by a lost pet, faulty appliances, and the arrival of Gabino’s freeloading pal, Paco (Barreiro). In Mobile, meanwhile, the pet is still lost and the appliances are still faulty, but Gabino and Paco inhabit new personas, playing a pair of low-rent movers whose lack of ambition is profoundly irksome to Gabino’s hectoring mother, Teresa.

The series continues on Saturday afternoon with a double feature presentation of Pereda’s experimental documentary All Things Were Now Overtaken by Silence (3:15 p.m.), and the filmmaker’s own carte blanche selection, The Corridor, by minimalist Lithuanian auteur Sharunas Bartas. A marked departure departure from Pereda’s established style and subject matter, All Things is a behind-the-scenes look at Mexican actor-director Jesusa Rodríguez’s preparations for a theatrical recital of the classic poem Primer sueño, framed in sumptuous high-contrast monochrome. Also screening on Saturday is Summer of Goliath (7 p.m.), Pereda’s prize-winning narrative-documentary hybrid, which casts his regular performers against actual inhabitants of the film’s rural setting. The series concludes on Sunday with the Toronto premiere of Greatest Hits (4 p.m.), which aptly revisits Pereda’s favoured motifs while pushing formal boundaries.

Images courtesy of TIFF.

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