Gabriel Abrantes

Ornithes (Birds, 2022)

Gabriel Abrantes’s film was made in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Taking the form of a magical-realist travelogue with elements of slapstick comedy, it follows a director who attempts to stage a faithful production of Aristophanes’s The Birds with locals.

The director imagines that the play might read as a story of colonial revolt. In the glaring sun of a village square, actors recite the ancient Greek comedy in the original while wearing carnival costumes made of papier-mâché, which in Haiti often satirize political figures.

The locals, however, do not accept the director’s premise. Instead, they tell and enact magical and tragic stories that might represent the economic malaise of a depressing postcolonial reality. Only, these supposedly authentic stories are in fact adaptations from The Arabian Nights, an originally anonymous collection of oral tales later reformulated for 18th-century European audiences.

Abrantes thus offers a comic comment on the preconceptions that artists bring along on their visits to places they do not know well enough, and whose context is more complex than they can understand.

Gabriel Abrantes (1984, North Carolina, USA) is an artist whose work revolves around film and painting. Many of his films explore postcolonial, gender, and identity issues, and play with absurdity, folklore, and humor. Abrantes’ films have premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs and the Semaine de la Critique—Cannes, Berlinale, Locarno Film Festival, the Venice Biennial, and the Toronto International Film Festival. His work has been exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery and Tate Britain, London; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; and Serralves Museum, Porto. He participated in the 32nd São Paulo Biennial, the 2016 Gran Bienal Tropical, Loíza, and the 2014 Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, Geneva. He currently lives and works in Lisbon.

S16 mm film transferred to HD video, 18′

French/Patois with English subtitles


Produced by A Mutual Respect Productions
With the support of Guimarães Capital Europeia da Cultura