Convento | Chicago Reader

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52 minutes

In a 400-year-old abandoned convent in southeastern Portugal, retired dancer Geraldine Zwanikken leads a quiet life with her two grown sons, one of whom makes strange animatronic figures from electronic refuse and animal skeletons. This stately 2010 documentary profiles the three inhabitants by observing their daily rituals: tending the on-site plants and animals, cooking, scavenging junkyards. Director Jarred Alterman suggests similarities between the Zwanikkens' monastic lifestyle and that of the convent's original inhabitants, though he doesn't underscore the point: the movie is more concerned with the here and now (though the animatronics seem to come out of some futuristic sci-fi scenario). As Geraldine says in the touching final scene, "It's not necessary that we live here [to make art]. The convent is just a building, and we are living."

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