Friends with Benefits: An Anthology of Four New American Filmmakers is a weeklong showcase of young iconoclasts Gabriel Abrantes, Alexander Carver, Benjamin Crotty, and Daniel Schmidt. The series will run February 5-11 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

In less than a decade of activity, these four friends and polymorphously promiscuous collaborators have made some of the most ravishing and least classifiable films in recent memory—and established themselves as a school of filmmaking unlike any other. These uncompromising young visionaries share a penchant for provocation, a taste for transgression, and a host of strategies and obsessions all their own. At once lyrical and perverse, by turns hilarious and delirious, their films obliterate distinctions—between highbrow and lowbrow, between sensual and cerebral, between art cinema and the avant-garde—while remaining sharply attuned to the by-products of globalization and the fluctuations of post-Internet pop culture.

Anchoring the retrospective is the U.S. theatrical release of Crotty’s feature debut Fort Buchanan, an official selection of New Directors/New Films, Rotterdam, and Locarno in 2015. Drawing inspiration from his upbringing near an American military base, Crotty crafts an absurdist melodrama within a community of army husbands and wives, hailed as a “unique cinematic vision, combining animated flights of fancy with 16mm realism, that continually dislodges viewer expectation” (Paul Dallas, Film Comment).

Friends with Benefits’ four programs are arranged by theme and director collaboration, and series highlights include Schmidt and Carver’s sci-fi allegory The Unity of All Things and their lyrical exploration of colonial Puerto Rico, The Island Is Enchanted with You; Abrantes and Crotty’s Visionary Iraq, in which they cast themselves as incestuous siblings; and Abrantes and Schmidt’s genre-defying coming-of-age story Palaces of Pity, the pair’s “most elaborate and ambitious film to date” (Andréa Picard, CinemaScope).

Organized by Dennis Lim and Dan Sullivan. Presented with support from MUBI. Tickets and a 3+ film discount package will go on sale Thursday, January 21. There will be a reception open to all Friends with Benefits ticket holders on Friday and Saturday from 8:00pm – 9:00pm.

The Unity of All Things

The Unity of All Things


Fort Buchanan
Benjamin Crotty, France/Tunisia, 2014, DCP, 65m
French with English subtitles
The feature debut of American-born, Paris-based writer-director Benjamin Crotty marks the arrival of something rare in contemporary cinema: a wholly original sensibility. Expanding his 2012 short of the same name, Crotty chronicles the tragicomic plight of frail, lonely Roger, stranded at a remote military post in the woods while his husband carries out a mission in Djibouti. Over four seasons, Roger (Andy Gillet, the androgynous star of Eric Rohmer’s The Romance of Astrea and Celadon) seeks comfort and companionship from the army wives in the leisurely yet sexually frustrated community, while trying to keep a lid on his volatile adopted daughter, Roxy. Shot in richly textured 16mm, Crotty’s queer soap opera playfully estranges and deranges any number of narrative conventions, finding surprising wells of emotion amid the carnal comedy. A New Directors/New Films 2015 selection.
Friday, February 5, 5:00pm
Saturday, February 6, 3:00pm & 7:00pm (Q&A with Benjamin Crotty at the 7:00pm screening)
Sunday, February 7, 6:00pm & 8:00pm (Q&A with Benjamin Crotty at the 6:00pm screening)
Monday, February 8, 5:00pm & 7:00pm
Tuesday, February 9, 5:00pm & 9:00pm
Wednesday, February 10, 5:00pm & 7:00pm
Thursday, February 11, 5:00pm & 7:00pm

The Unity of All Things
Daniel Schmidt & Alexander Carver, USA/Switzerland/China, 2013, digital projection, 98m
English, Cantonese, and Spanish with English subtitles
A hypnotic and erotic sci-fi tone poem, exquisitely shot on a mixture of Super 16 and Super 8, The Unity of All Things tracks the metaphysical and psychosexual changes undergone by a group of research physicists as they prepare for the construction of a new particle accelerator on the U.S.-Mexico border. Meanwhile, the group leader’s two teenage sons (played by actresses, in drag) find themselves exploring an incestuous romance. Daniel Schmidt and Alexander Carver’s film is a singular audiovisual experience, an entrancing and grainy hallucination in which bodies, the sea, haunting drones, neon lights, and gargantuan scientific apparatuses (three real-life particle colliders provide the location for much of the film) commingle to yield a portrait of desire that is nothing short of cosmic.
Friday, February 5, 9:00pm (Q&A with Daniel Schmidt and Alexander Carver)
Sunday, February 7, 2:00pm
Thursday, February 11, 9:00pm



Program 1: Dreams, Drones, and Dactyls (TRT: 86m)

A program of Gabriel Abrantes’s three most recent shorts—ribald and irreverent films that mark his recent swerve toward popular comedy.

Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal/Sri Lanka/Denmark/France, 2014, DCP, 24m
Portuguese, Sinhalese, and French with English subtitles
A sensuous and debauched portrait of Portugal’s national poet Luís Vaz de Camões teetering on the borderline between Paradise and Hell. A New Directors/New Films 2015 selection.

Freud und Friends
Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal, 2015, DCP, 30m
English and Portuguese with English subtitles
A freewheeling homage to both Woody Allen’s Sleeper and reality TV, Freud und Friends is a headlong dive (narrated by “Herner Werzog”) into the deepest, silliest recesses of Abrantes’s unconscious.

Ennui Ennui
Gabriel Abrantes, France, 2013, DCP, 32m
English, French and Farsi with English subtitles
This delirious espionage farce (whose cast includes Edith Scob and Esther Garrel) resembles what might have happened if Zero Dark Thirty had been written by Georges Bataille.
Friday, February 5, 6:30pm (Q&A with Gabriel Abrantes)
Monday, February 8, 9:00pm


Visionary Iraq

Program 2: Slow Learners (TRT: 73m)

A collection of five early shorts full of camp and ambition, including two early collaborations by Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crotty that take us from Iraq to Angola, and Abrantes’s first film, Olympia I & II, co-directed with Katie Widloski, a seductive tongue-in-cheek riff on Manet’s canonical painting.

Olympia I & II
Gabriel Abrantes & Katie Widloski, USA, 2006, digital projection, 9m
This radical diptych recasts Manet’s canonical painting as a scandalous psychodrama: in the first part, a prostitute (Katie Widloski) and her brother (Gabriel Abrantes) struggle with their incestuous urges; in the second, a prostitute (Abrantes) copes with her loneliness on a slow night for business.

Visionary Iraq
Gabriel Abrantes & Benjamin Crotty, Portugal, 2009, digital projection, 17m
Channeling the Kuchar brothers, Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crotty play all the roles within a Portuguese family whose incestuous children—a son with Justin Bieber’s hair (Crotty) and an adopted Angolan daughter (Abrantes)—have joined the army and are soon to ship out for a tour of Iraq.

Too Many Daddies, Mommies, and Babies
Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal, 2009, digital projection, 25m
Portuguese with English subtitles
Two eco-activists abandon their efforts to try to save the Amazon in order to start a family, only for tragedy to befall their surrogate in this outrageous, Warholian take on the weepie.

Gabriel Abrantes & Benjamin Crotty, Portugal/Angola, 2011, DCP, 17m
English, Portuguese, and Mandarin with English subtitles
Shot in Luanda, Angola, this visually ravishing tale of romance, crime, and erectile dysfunction chronicles the relationship between an Angolan boy and a Chinese girl as they attempt to forge a shared, transcultural identity.

Baby Back Costa Rica
Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal, 2011, digital projection, 5m
Portuguese with English subtitles
This companion piece to Palaces of Pity follows three teenage girls on an ominous drive home, discussing shared acquaintances, cars, and Judaism as a swimming pool straight out of David Hockney awaits.
Saturday, February 6, 4:30pm (Q&A with Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crotty)


Palaces of Pity

Program 3: Friends for Eternity (TRT: 82m)

Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s first two collaborations are sublime stories of friendship and betrayal spanning the medieval past to a dystopian future.

Palaces of Pity / Palacios de Pena
Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt, Portugal, 2011, DCP, 59m
Portuguese with English subtitles
After establishing their filmmaking partnership with A History of Mutual Respect, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt co-directed this radically stylized, era- and genre-scrambling amalgam of coming-of-age melodrama, medieval pageant, and political allegory. Two teenage sisters cope with the death of their beloved grandmother, their long-standing rivalry, and their inheritance of an immense castle with a shadowy Fascist past. An exhilarating whatsit laden with awe-inspiring landscapes, surrealist flourishes, and stirring, unexpected juxtapositions of image and sound, Palaces of Pity is denser with aesthetic, historical, and political ideas than innumerable films twice its length.

A History of Mutual Respect
Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt, Portugal, 2010, digital projection, 23m
English and Portuguese with English subtitles
The first collaboration between Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt is a playful yet serious meditation on friendship, competition, and carnal desire, cast against lush jungle settings and the modernist architecture of Brasilia.
Saturday, February 6, 9:00pm (Q&A with Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt)
Tuesday, February 9, 7:00pm


Ὄρνιθες / Zwazo

Program 4: Three Adaptations (TRT: 79m)

In this program of adaptations of classic and ancient texts, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and the oral tradition of Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people are subjected to the whims and perversions of Gabriel Abrantes, Alexander Carver, and Daniel Schmidt.

The Island Is Enchanted with You / La Isla está Encantada con Ustedes
Daniel Schmidt & Alexander Carver, USA/Switzerland/Australia/Puerto Rico, 2014, digital projection, 35m
Spanish with English subtitles
This enigmatic series of tableaux, exploring colonial legacies, the massacre of Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people, and the insatiability of the libido, among other subjects, is a sensual and cerebral feast, rapturously interweaving elements of softcore, period films, music videos, and computer animation.

Ὄρνιθες / Zwazo
Gabriel Abrantes, Haiti/Portugal, 2012, DCP, 17m
Portuguese, Attic Greek, and Haitian Creole with English subtitles
An upstart theater director named Gabriel Abrantes attempts to stage a faithful production of Aristophanes’s The Birds in Haiti, only for the locals to lose their patience with his rather excessive approach…

Gabriel Abrantes & Alexandre Melo, Portugal, 2011, DCP, 27m
Portuguese with English subtitles
Gabriel Abrantes and Alexander Melo deconstruct the first section of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew as a playful, vibrant ode to bacchanalia, classicism, and homoeroticism.
Sunday, February 7, 4:00pm (Q&A with Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt, and Alexander Carver)
Wednesday, February 10, 9:00pm