Colombian director Alejandro Landes released his third feature film at the Alamo Draft House in Brooklyn, NY called MONOS. In this Oscar-contending Latin film, Landes brings together a diverse cast of both seasoned professionals such as Moisés Arias and Julianne Nicholson. Landes also incorporates untrained actors who raise the bar for entry-level actors.
MONOS, the breathe-taking survivalist thriller is set on a remote mountain in Latin America and examines the chaos and absurdity of war from the unique perspective of a group of adolescent soldiers and rebels who watch over an American hostage called Doctoria and a cow. While in the environment, the children perform military training exercises, play games and initiate cult-like rituals, while running amok in the jungle. Together they are an unconventional family bound under a shadowy force known only as The Organization but after an ambush and an attempted escape from a hostage, plans within MONOS shift causing the strong to begin to prey on the weak in this vivid, cautionary fever-dream.
The screening for this film took the audience through a jaw-dropping roller coaster experience that left the audience astonished, laughing at certain parts and even at the edge of their seats especially because of the rapturous score by the brilliant Mica Levi. After the screening, the night of festivals concluded at The House Of Wax where everything reflected on drama thrilling film.
The Knockturnal got a chance to speak with the director, writer, and producer Alejandro Landes, and actors Moises Arias and Julianne Nicholson about their Oscar-contending foreign film movie, check it out below!
The Knockturnal: What was your inspiration behind this survivalist film?
Alejandro Landes: I come from Colombia a country that had 60 years of civil war but I also am the grandson of a guy who fought in World War II, a Californian man from Normandy and so I’ve seen and heard of war and I felt this was a novel kind of war because it’s told from the backlines and it’s told from the point of view of people that are neither children or adults they’re kind of adolescents so right at that borderline a mirror situation where you had that exterior conflict which we know is war and interior conflict when you want to belong but you also want to be alone, your body changes etc… so I felt this moment gives a big window into human nature.
The Knockturnal: What was this process like for you because I know you took on a lot of roles for this project not only directing but writing, and producing as well?
Alejandro Landes: It was a beast to make a roller coaster, everyone that was on it was apart of one big train ride sometimes alone, sometimes with a bunch of people, but everyone cried on this shoot, and we all had to give our all to make this happen, it was really an awaking dream to make this film and I think you feel that on the screen.
The Knockturnal: What was it like preparing for this role? What did your journey look like for you to get here today?
Moises Arias: From the screenplay, you could tell what Alejandro was trying to achieve your job as an actor is to make that easier then it seems he was trying to capture something that few people have attempted and whenever I’m apart of something I really like to give my entire being to it that being said I knew it was gonna be a film in Spanish so I stopped listening to music in English and speaking in English that means no communication with my family and friends and just living in this world that Alejandro created for us of this army.
The Knockturnal: In the trailer, I see there were a lot of military techniques used in the film. What was it like for you incorporating that into your acting while focusing on so many different aspects such as physicality, memorizing lines and maintaining a military-like demeanor?
Moises Arias: The first couple of weeks before shooting were both acting training, because of the non-actors, the 7 other kids hadn’t been on in film before or in front of the camera and the other half of the time we were doing military training, not just army technique…. it’s called “Pisa suave” which translates to soft steppers basically a silent army and that was from 4am-until 9 am and acting class from 10 am -2 pm and then 2pm-6pm army again so we were living this as if we were actually doing this.
The Knockturnal: What was your biggest challenge while taking on this role being that there was a lot of intense physical aspects to filming?
Moises Arias: Ultimately the language was the most difficult part to feel good about because all the kids are from Colombia and are from different parts of the country and just really funny, really witty and intelligent so for me to be the antagonist and leader of the squad and not have the vocabulary, not have the words to express was definitely the hardest part when we kept rolling past what was on the page
The Knockturnal: With all of your intense training on set do you think you can survive on Naked and Afraid?
Moises Arias: I believe so… I went through the toughest time I ever had in my career but when you watch the film, you tell me haha.
The Knockturnal: How do you feel now that filming is over and the movie is finally here?
Julianne Nicholson: I feel excited that it’s finally coming out for people to see it was an incredible experience making this movie and I feel we captured not just the story but what the experience was making it and I’m super proud of it everyone that sees it is moved by it.
The Knockturnal: What was your process like preparing for this role?
Julianne Nicholson: Preparing for this role I did quite a lot of reading about people who had experienced being prisoners of war and people who have been kidnapped for varies lengths of time and that and also I was meant to be kidnapped for months so all personal grooming went out the window I had to lose some weight that was the start of it.
The Knockturnal: Was that one of your biggest challenges?
Julianne Nicholson: The subject matter is quite brutal so it was just day today trying to bring the honestly to each of the scenes it was very physical but that was kinda fun for me to do something so different it’s like worlds away from anything I’ve ever done before.
The Knockturnal: What made you want to be a part of this project?
Julianne Nicholson: Well I loved the story it really leaped off the page, this sort of exploration of these kids going through adolescence while being asked to fight in war that who knows if they even believe in what is that war and also like challenging myself the idea of doing a Spanish speaking film felt exciting to go discover Colombia felt exciting. I’ve watched Alejandro’s movie Cocalero which I thought was beautiful so everything about it I wanted to say yes too.
The Knockturnal: In the trailer, I see there were a lot of military techniques did you have military training as well?
Julianne Nicholson: I didn’t, they had us a little bit separated, it was very much me and them so I lived in my tent and for them, it was shared space.
MONOS has been released in select theatres and I must say this film is a must-see.