The Zwanikken family moved to Portugal from the Netherlands and bought and renovated the Convento Sao Fancisco de Mertola to become their home and an artist's studio. The building sits in a nature reserve, which now has a thriving colony of the very rare lesser kestrel that nest in a specially built falcon tower. Geraldine Zwanikken is a former prima ballerina who got tired of dancing and choreography and is now an artist, gardener and cook. Her son Christiaan is a kinetic sculptor and it is his work that the film focuses on. Christiaan uses found materials including things scavanged from the local rubbish dump and animal skeletons to create amazing, surreal (and quite disturbing) kinetic sculptures or robots. His studio, a high ceilinged room in the convent, whirrs with the activities of hundreds of small and not so small mechanical artworks. He has also done a lot of work in and around the building, including renovating a waterwheel, which now irrigates the gardens round the building.
Convento is an inspiring film about one family's vision about a place and an artist's vision about the relationship between nature and humans.
I attended the press screening of this film at Edinburgh International Film festival. Public Screenings are: 18.00, 19 June in Filmhouse 2 and 20.00, 22 June in George Square Theatre. You can book tickets on the Edinburgh International Film Festival website here. Also during the film festival there will be an exhibition of Christiaan Zwanikken's art in Teviot Union, Bristo Square.
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