Profile: Gabriel Abrantes
Gabriel Abrantes (PT/US, 1984) makes fiction films that superficially resemble Hollywood productions, yet draw on a precarious DIY spirit closer to experimental filmmaking. The result of a collaborative process (regular accomplices include Benjamin Crotty, Daniel Schmidt and Katie Widloski), his films display an irreverent sense of humour that can be read as audacious institutional critique – of the art world in earlier works such as Olympia and Visionary Iraq; of industrial cinema in later films – or as a way to insinuate global politics and their mechanisms. Abrantes and his collaborators use strategies of narrative distanciation, including dubbed dialogues (A History of Mutual Respect), working with non professional actors, and playing in the films themselves. In Visionary Iraq, the story of a brother and sister caught in an incestuous relationship who decide to leave Portugal to go fight in Iraq, Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crotty play every part in this reinvention of the family melodrama: men and women, parents and children.
A largely feminine piece, Palacios de Pena portrays culturally-inherited guilt and political oppression in Portugal, through a tale of two upper class teenagers and their tyrannical grandmother. Undeniably cinematographic, Palacios de Pena represents a clear shift from the art gallery context to the cinematic field, a shift that Abrantes describes as “from using art as a form of questioning the mechanisms of the artworld, to using art as a mode of questioning the mechanisms of global politics.” For Abrantes, “the interest in cinema comes from a number of factors, one of them being how Hollywood functions in relation to a collective consciousness, how it has shaped a collective vision of history and its relationship with U.S. values and lifestyles. Hollywood has grown and assisted the United States’ economic, cultural, and political rise during the twentieth century.” Abrantes’s films are also symptomatic of a reclamation and rehabilitation of narrative by artist filmmakers, from Miranda July, Steve McQueen, Anka & Wilhelm Sasnal to Ben Rivers, whose Two Years at Sea is also part of this year’s Courtisane festival.
This profile screening presents the work of Gabriel Abrantes for the first time in Belgium, following screenings at international film festivals such as Venice, Rotterdam and London, and exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.