What gives a family holiday gathering its special spirit, its suspense, its humor, its wonder? It’s impossible to pin down, unless maybe in Christmas Inventory, an alluring and playful early short by the brilliantly inventive Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes (Tabu, Arabian Nights). Set on an unspecified December 25 in the mid-80s, and based on the director’s own childhood, it’s full of that warm, affectionate and elusive atmosphere, and an unmissable ornament to one of the most innovative filmographies in contemporary cinema.
Gomes divides the film between fly-on-the-wall dramatic scenes and lovingly framed shots of gifts and decorations, these juxtaposed in surprising and surreal ways, as when a Nativity donkey is viciously attacked by an action-figure Spiderman. The layered soundtrack lends an infectious musical energy, as well as a satirical edge – a radio broadcast evokes the political unrest in 80s Portugal, and still sounds eerily familiar today. One of Gomes’ first shorts, it is already a playfully indefinable hybrid anticipating, at toy-like scale, the genre and form shifting of his epic Our Beloved Month of August (2008) and Arabian Nights (2015).
“When I was 12, I dreamt that I was putting in motion the static pictures of the crèche. With this film I tried to do the same with the memories of my cousins and relatives, with that house and with those rituals. It’s a fake documentary and a fake animation film, a semi-fiction about children that go to war, play music and take over.” MIGUEL GOMES
Gomes is one of contemporary cinema’s great shapeshifters, and an essential chronicler of Portugal’s past and present. He first gained international attention with his dazzlingly hybrid second feature Our Beloved Month of August, and his much loved B&W fable of colonialism Tabu won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear in 2012. His massive, three-part Arabian Nights premiered at the 2015 Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. He is currently working on his next feature, Selvajara, based on the true story of a civil war in the backlands of Brazil in the late 19th century.
Many thanks to O Som E A Furia and Agencia Curtas for making this screening possible.
- Credits for
- Christmas Inventory
- Diogo Baptista, Inês Baptista, Pedro Caldas, Catarina Grácio Encarnação, Miguel Encarnação, Paulo Encarnação, Joana Grácio, Maria Joana Grácio, Manuel Mozos, Miguel Mozos, Zé Pedro Mozos, João Nicolau, Isabel Quadros, Mariana Ricardo, Joana Sá, Rita Sá, Alberto Seixas Santos, Miguel Sotero, Luis Tavares, Marta Tavares & Miguel Tavares
- written by
- Miguel Gomes
- produced by
- Sandro Aguilar & João Figueiras
- executive produced by
- Nuno Milagre
- cinematography by
- Rui Poças
- Luis Botelho
- Manuel Mozos