Miguel Gomes was born in Lisbon in 1972. He studied Cinema and worked as a film critic for the Portuguese press until the year 2000. He has directed several short films and made his first feature, The Face You Deserve, in 2000. Tabu (2012) was released at Berlinale’s Competition, where it won the Alfred Bauer and FIPRESCI award; the movie was sold to over 50 countries and won dozens of awards. Retrospectives of his work have been programmed at the Viennale, the BAFICI, the Torino FF, in Germany, and in the USA. His three-part drama Arabian Nights, based on One Thousand and One Nights, was screened as part of the Director’s Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. During his visit at SIFF, he presented Our Beloved Month of August (2008) and Tabu (2012), the two films that gave him international recognition, and discussed in an extended conversation with the audience the realities of his filmmaking process and filmmaking as a means to process reality, responding to SIFF 2018’s main theme: “Is It Real?”
Our Beloved Month of August [Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto] (Miguel Gomes, Portugal, 2008, 35mm, 149΄) takes us to Arganil, Portugal, in the early 2000s. Enter: a filmmaker, some close friends, and a script. Lacking: actors, money, the largesse required to make a conventional film. Deciding to make do with what they have, Gomes and his skeleton crew cast locals as actors, and start to document the bacchanalia of the high-tourist season in this Portuguese vacation town. The barriers between fiction, direct cinema, making-of, and mockumentary all melt in this film, a tincture of summer drunkenness, haze, and tourists’ yelps. “There’s a scene with two non-professional actors chatting, surreptitiously recorded by Gomes. One of them complains that the director keeps changing the lines on him… Minutes later, the other, whom we first met performing karaoke but who becomes the band’s drummer in the second half, is whistling a throwaway tune, which, about half an hour later, is performed for the first time by Estrelas do Alva. It’s the title track, at first just another song among many songs, and only becomes catchy when performed by the full band, vocals and all. This small recognition hints to the ways that in Our Beloved Month of August direction, screenwriting, and editing have molded as one in a magical place somewhere over the rainbow.”
––– Mark Peranson, Cinema Scope
Tabu (Miguel Gomes, Portugal, 2012, DCP, 118’) is a film that deftly navigates the in-between: in between sincerity and irony, repression and anarchy, post- colonial critique, and romanticism. Weaving together the present of crisis- stricken Portugal with its hoary imperialist past, Tabu experiments with the assumed connection between story and reality. We begin grounded in the “truth” of present-day Lisbon, in the midst of unjust economic conditions and global unrest, following a character who is trying to navigate her surroundings with a pessimistic morality. We then jump into the past, to a Portuguese colony depicted in impressionistic snapshot, where life is infinitely “freer” than the Portuguese of the 2010s, a heedless freedom built on the backs of exploitation – permitting unlimited passion and desire for any who wish to burn. The twisting and churning of these two worlds, these realms of reality and myth, reveals the aporia rife in both “texts”; perhaps the only real freedom afforded is in creation itself, alternatingly dipping in and out of the pools of dream, world and nightmare, never long enough to be fully submerged.