Francois Truffaut once said, I’m paraphrasing, cinema is about either the joy of making movies or the agony of making movies. “The Peddler” is one of the most loving valentines to the joy of filmmaking I have ever seen. Giddy enthusiasm for creation’s spark and energy is in every frame.
Daniel Burmeister travels from village to village in Argentina making about one or two films a month using one of four or five prepared scripts. At the time of this documentary, he had made fifty-eight movies. His selling point is casting all the inhabitants of a town. The people see themselves in the movie, after paying admission, and then buy a DVD or tape as a memento. This documentary follows the making of one movie.
Burmeister’s optimism and enthusiasm are infectious, a fireball of friendliness that swims on a sea of people. He is completely alive and in his element when directing scenes by the seat of his pants. As someone says in the documentary, he encounters a thousand problems and comes up with a thousand creative solutions. My favorite: in order to get a tracking shot he sits on a blanket and someone pulls the blanket so he’s smoothly dragged across the floor while holding the camera. The making of the movie galvanizes the village like adrenaline. One boy says how he was shy and never spoke to anyone. After the movie, he’s friendly and talks to people all the time. Dull daily life is made fresh and new because nothing fun happens in a slow small town; filmmaking electrifies all ages.
Burmeister is in his mid-sixties, acts like he’s forty years younger, and even has grown daughters who live elsewhere. His car constantly is on the verge of breaking down and is almost a character by itself. He puts glue in the radiator one time to make it stick together. He’s a creative transient who sees the means to his final cut more important than the movie itself. Only disparate clips of the final movie are seen, but I can’t help but think that he’s some distant cousin of Ed Wood with the lovability of Santa Claus. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a cool little B-movie should he ever try something resembling traditional filmmaking.
Some scenes, mostly in the first twenty minutes, are recreations. This could irritate some cinema verite purists. During the Q &A director-writer Adriana Yurcovich (one of three director-writers credited) said this was done because they arrived after Burmeister was already there for about a week. Werner Herzog has received the same recreation criticisms for some of his documentaries. Admitting to recreating, Herzog states even though some things may not be entirely truthful that he is always striving for “The Ecstatic Truth.” “The Ecstatic Truth” bursts everywhere from “The Peddler.” That stated, not too surprisingly, the first twenty minutes are somewhat slow.
“The Peddler” is a cinematic valentine to film lovers around the world. It’s optimism and joy make possibilities and opportunities for any endeavor seem bountiful.