By Leah Shore
I’m just going to say it: I HATE documentaries. That being said, I saw the rooftop films screening of Convento this past week. I didn’t know it was going to be a documentary – I was seduced by its poster of a creepy taxidermy rabbit wrapped in futuristic robotic/steampunk wear. HOWEVER (!), this documentary was MORE then just a documentary, it was art, complete cinematic art.
Filmmaker/artist Jarred Alterman documents artist/innovator Christiaan Zwanikken and his eclectic mother and brother in their home, a renovated 400-year-old convent turned museum/palace/escape from anything you have ever seen. It is like another planet, secluded and located in Portugal. Christiaan is a well-known sculpture artist who transforms garbage into robotic kinetic pieces of art juxtaposed with taxidermy animals. We see his inspiration from the convent, the animals and his mother.
The film also follows Christiaan’s brother who has a passion for animals (especially his donkey) and his mother, a 70-something spunky woman who transforms the landscape, helps preserve the convent and even sculpts in her own right. A prima ballerina turned experimental dancer/artist; it only makes sense that she and her sons live together in this compound of creativity. Christiaan’s mother stood out most of all in this film amongst the bizarre animatronic sculptures and nature. She considered her sons, not as sons, but as people who thrived together to create art and life, companions in a creative environment until death. All three appreciate the land and the earth and use every resource available to create art and love the earth and their lives.
This film is the BEST documentary I have ever seen. Though, at times it doesn’t even count as a doc because it’s more of an epic experimental film. Rooftops flew Christiaan to New York to install some of his sculptures in a courtyard that I explored after the show. It was like an urban museum! Très cool. I want to go to Portugal and live with these creative people and make art. NOW. See this film!
More about Convento HERE