Blurring the lines between fiction and reality, Our Beloved Month of August is a bewildering fusion of documentary, narrative and musical styles that results in a film that is as deceiving as it is captivating to watch.
Attempting to shoot a screenplay during the summer festivals in and around the village of Arganil in Portugal's rural interior in 2006, director Miguel Gomes ran into trouble with funding and casting and suspended the project.
Determined to continue filming, Gomes took a 16mm camera along with a small crew of five to shoot the stories of the locals and the energetic music festivals as a documentary. In the process, he found himself uniting the rich sights and sounds permeating the mountainous villages with the intriguing tale of the relationship of a father, daughter and nephew in a traveling band.
Legend and truth are easily manipulated as the complex film winds its way through the storyline of an underfunded and uncast screenplay filled with an array of footage of villagers' background stories, folk traditions, musical performances and travels through the surrounding landscape.
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The documentary makes a turn toward the original concept for the film as the characters shot in earlier background stories are woven into the passionate story of the musical family traveling together to perform their romantic ballads.
Gomes manages to paint a picture of the region while at the same time merging the personal melodrama played out through the musical narrative.
In all its episodic confusion, Our Beloved Month of August is a unique and profound experience worth the frustration of separating fiction from nonfiction, ambiguity from certainty; it just might leave you with more questions than answers.
The film will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston June 18 at 7 p.m. and June 19 at 5 p.m. Visit www.mfah.org/films or call 713-639-7515 for more information.