Documentarian Jarred Alterman emphasizes oddball lyricism in the one-of-a-kind “Convento,” in which a 400-year-old Portuguese monastery provides the canvas for a Dutch family’s artistic experimentation. Dead rabbits and bird skeletons find new life in kinetic sculptures that click, whir and chatter away in what looks like a mad scientist’s whitewashed laboratory, fusing manmade and natural elements. Bowing March 9 at Brooklyn’s Gastropub, “Convento” may carve an esoteric fest/museum niche.
The Zwanikken family bought the abandoned monastery as an uber-fixer-upper, even ingeniously renovating an intricate medieval system of giant wheels and buckets that carries water from a cavernous well to the far-flung corners of the sprawling estate. A rider in full crusader regalia circles the priory while two figures wrapped in silver foil cavort like creatures on the surface of the moon; elsewhere, ersatz donkeys and giant metallic ants roam the grounds, while a former prima ballerina wanders through the lush vegetation, popping herbs and fashioning adobe headgear for ancient marble statues. Every member of the three-person family has found aesthetic fulfillment uniquely suited to the ancient retreat, as does helmer Alterman, who revels in serene vistas teeming with hybrid creations.