Arabian Nights Vol. 1

“Feels like a Charlie Kaufman brain-burst painted onto a large, colourful and sprawling European canvas.” - Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian

As Arabian Nights explains through a cheeky and humorous title card, the film takes only the structure from its source material, using it to tell tales from a range of walks of Portuguese life. As with One Thousand and One Nights, the stories are told by a young woman named Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), but they’re the inventions of Gomes and co-writers Mariana Ricardo and Telmo Churro, inspired by real-life events occurring in Portugal between August 2013 and July 2014.

The film opens with a documentary-like half hour cutting between stories of shipyard workers being laid off, an apiarist fighting a vicious species of wasps, and Gomes struggling to figure out how to tell a story of Portuguese life. Although the segment seems disconnected from what follows, the message is clear: This is a film about people. In Gomes’s vision, no one’s story is too small to be insignificant, and everyone faces challenges worth documenting.

Max Bledstein Popoptiq