The first part combines the stories of three workers: The redundant shipyard worker’s story is intercut with an account of a local apiarist who’s fighting an invasive Asian wasp species. The third worker is Gomes himself who escapes his responsibilities when he realises the impossibility of the task before him. The storytelling job thus falls to his fictional protagonist, Scheherazade. First tale: What initially seems like a re-creation of a troika meeting slowly devolves into an absurd tale of an African wizard showing up with a spray that magically cures impotence. In the second tale a judge puts a cockerel on trial for crowing too early; the animal ends up getting a fair share of votes in a municipal election. The last section features a trade unionist interviewing unemployed citizens before a traditional dip in the Atlantic on New Year’s Day and a beached whale that explodes.
Inspired by Scheherazade’s stories, the first instalment of Miguel Gomes’ trio of pics acts as a melancholy paean to a broken Portugal and a denunciation of European financial control. All sorts of nonfiction and fiction stories are woven together in a tapestry of frustration, melancholy and burlesque.
"Arabian Nights is based on popular culture, so the stories are structured in a very wild way. The book – much more than the film – is very scatological, sometimes very violent. It’s completely punk, this book. And because it comes from popular culture, it has very extreme things, very direct feelings, and primal things too. I wanted this film to echo this kind of feeling." (Miguel Gomes)