Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alejandro Landes|
|Music by||Mica Levi|
|Box office||$1.3 million|
Monos is a 2019 internationally co-produced war drama film directed by Alejandro Landes, written by Landes and Alexis Dos Santos and produced by Fernando Epstein, Santiago Zapata, Martin Solibakke, Cristina Landes and Landes himself. It stars Julianne Nicholson and Moisés Arias. The film follows a group of armed teenage guerillas assigned to watch over a hostage. This film was released in the United States on September 13, 2019 by Neon and Participant, receiving positive reviews from critics.
The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on 26 January 2019, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award. It was selected as the official Colombian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards and the Goya Award for Best Iberoamerican Film at the 34th Goya Awards.
On a remote Colombian mountaintop, the Monos, a group of teenage commandos identified only by their noms de guerre, perform military training exercises while watching over a prisoner of war referred to only as "Doctora". They are visited by the Messenger, who oversees their drills and instructs them to push themselves harder. Two of the Monos, Lady and Wolf, request permission to enter a romantic relationship, which the Messenger authorizes. Before departing, he leaves the Monos in charge of a milk cow named Shakira.
Lady and Wolf consummate their relationship, an event the other commandos honor with celebratory gunfire, during which Shakira is inadvertently shot and killed by Dog. The Monos punish Dog by putting him in solitary confinement in a pit and then drag Shakira's body to their camp to strip it for meat. Troop leader Wolf commits suicide. The Monos argue over how to report this to the Messenger via radio; they eventually lie to protect Dog, saying that Wolf killed Shakira and killed himself out of shame. With Wolf's death, the Messenger appoints Bigfoot as head of the squad. Over the radio, the Organization's commander asks Doctora questions from her family to confirm that she is alive.
The Monos' base is attacked and Doctora is put under the watch of Swede, who informs her that she will be killed if the opposing forces try to rescue her. While they are alone together, Doctora appeals to Swede's emotions to help her escape and the two embrace when the bunker in which they are hiding is shelled. Swede begins kissing Doctora, who throws her off; Swede then laughs at her.
The following day, Bigfoot announces that the Monos were triumphant in the fight and will be relocating to the jungle. Soon after their arrival, Doctora makes an escape. Bigfoot is enraged, damaging the radio and declaring the Monos independent of the unnamed Organization that they serve. After Doctora is recaptured, Bigfoot demands that Rambo chain the prisoner to a tree. Rambo does so but begins to cry, further angering Bigfoot.
The Messenger returns to check on the Monos and discovers that Lady and Bigfoot have begun a sexual relationship without approval. He forces the Monos to carry out strenuous exercises and confess to him about one another's misdeeds. Smurf reveals that Dog is the one who killed Shakira and recounts what Bigfoot said about the Monos' independence. The Messenger announces that he will be taking Bigfoot to be assessed by the Organization's superiors. However, on the motorboat ride there, Bigfoot shoots the Messenger in the back and returns to the jungle camp. Smurf is tied to a tree as punishment for snitching and the Monos double down on their training, successfully robbing several passing motorists.
During the night, Rambo tries to free Smurf but is stopped by Lady. Rambo then runs off alone, coming across a boat, where he is caught by its owner, who is diving for gold in the river. He takes Rambo back to his home, where Rambo meets the man's family and is given food and a bed.
Swede takes Doctora to swim and soon joins her in the river. Doctora uses the chain to drown Swede, then breaks the links with a rock. Back on land, she finds Smurf tied up and takes his boots. Smurf begs Doctora to take him with her but she declines.
The Monos track Rambo down and attack the house, killing the man and his wife. As Rambo flees, a television in the background reports that Doctora has been spotted in the jungle and it is implied she will soon be rescued by authorities. Lady finds the couple's three children hiding under a table while Bigfoot, Boom Boom, and Dog chase after Rambo, who jumps into the river. Eventually, Rambo washes up on shore and is picked up by a military helicopter, whose pilots radio ahead that they have found an unidentified person. As the helicopter arrives in a nearby city, one of the soldiers contacts his commander, repeatedly requesting what to do with the captive as Rambo starts crying.
The film was loosely inspired by the novels Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Filmic influences included Come and See and Beau Travail. While "monos", the title as well as the code name of the main squad in the film, superficially means "monkeys" in Spanish, it signifies the prefix mono- of Greek origin meaning "alone" or "one" according to Landes. As for the subjects of teenage soldiers and the Colombian conflict, Landes said:
In Monos, youth serves as a metaphor for Colombia as a nation; it's a young country, still searching for its identity, and the dream of peace is fragile, tentative and recurring. ... It's a stage in life in which we are caught between wanting company and, just as desperately, wanting to be alone. Monos looks to evoke this angst and conflict from the inside rather than create reactions of pity or outrage in the audience by depicting what could be perceived as a foreign conflict.
A film atypical in Latin America, Monos ended up being a co-production between eight countries with support from a variety of institutional funds. Describing the financing process, Landes said, "we basically passed around a hat. I think we had about half the budget when we started shooting".
More than 800 children across Colombia were considered for the main roles of child soldiers. First, 20 to 30 were chosen to participate in a weeks-long camp in mountains, where they received acting training from Argentine actress Inés Efron in the morning, and military training from Wilson Salazar, who plays the Messenger, in the afternoon, and the final eight were cast among them. Salazar was a FARC soldier from 11 to 24, and Landes found him at one of the reinsertion programmes Landes visited for research. Landes first hired Salazar as a consultant before casting him as the Messenger. The role of Rambo, played by Buenaventura, who goes by Matt, was originally written to be a boy, but Landes made their gender ambiguous during the casting process. Monos marked the first film appearances of the main actors aside from Arias and Nicholson. Quintero and Castrillón had acting experience in theatre. Buenaventura and Giraldo have continued acting in film since Monos.
The production began in late 2016 and lasted nine weeks. The mountain scenes were shot in Chingaza National Natural Park, four hours outside of Bogotá and more than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level. The jungle scenes were shot around the Samaná Norte River in Antioquia Department, five hours from Medellín. Because of the conflict, the jungle was considered too dangerous for civilians to visit until recently, hence remaining mostly untouched by humans. For the cast and crew, mules carried food and gear, Colombia's national kayak team helped them find a base camp, and a family of illegal gold miners built military tents. Underwater scenes were shot with buoyancy equipment attached to the actors, with the kayak team helping ensure safety. Prominent underwater cinematographer Peter Zuccarini joined the crew for three to four days. According to cinematographer Jasper Wolf, both locations had never been captured on film before.
Monos is the fourth film scored by Mica Levi, following Under the Skin, Jackie, and Marjorie Prime. Levi came on board after seeing an unfinished cut. Landes asked Levi for a "monumental, but minimal" score. Levi first made short compositions involving whistles, made by Levi blowing into a glass bottle herself, timpani, and a synthesizer sound, around which further compositions were built. Different sounds were assigned to represent various characters: a shrill bottle whistle became the "authority whistle", evoking the presence of the Organization; a bird-like whistle represented the bond among the child soldiers; and timpani accompanied with the authority whistle represented "the shadowy force that tries to control the group from a distance". The score is used sparingly throughout the film, taking up only 22 minutes.
As of June 2020[update], the film holds a 92% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 141 reviews with an average rating of 8.02 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "As visually splendid as it is thought-provoking, Monos takes an unsettling look at human nature whose grim sights leave a lingering impact." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100 based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result||Ref.|
|Sundance Film Festival||2 February 2019||World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award||Monos||Won|||
|Cartagena Film Festival||11 March 2019||Audience Award||Monos||Won|||
|Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse||30 March 2019||Prix CCAS, Prix Des Électriciens Gaziers||Monos||Won|||
|Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema||13 April 2019||Best Original Music||Mica Levi||Won|||
|Newport Beach Film Festival||8 May 2019||Jury Award – Best Film||Monos||Won|||
|Jury Award – Best Actress||Sofía Buenaventura||Won|||
|Jury Award – Best Director||Alejandro Landes||Won|||
|Jury Award – Best Cinematography||Jasper Wolf||Won|||
|Montclair Film Festival||12 May 2019||Fiction Feature Prize||Monos||Won|||
|Transilvania International Film Festival||9 June 2019||Transilvania Trophy - Best Film||Monos||Won|||
|Art Film Fest||21 June 2019||Blue Angel – Best Film||Monos||Won|||
|Odesa International Film Festival||20 July 2019||Best Director||Alejandro Landes||Won|||
|Santiago International Film Festival||24 August 2019||Best Director||Alejandro Landes||Won|||
|Viña del Mar International Film Festival||14 September 2019||Gran Paoa Prize - Best International Film||Monos||Won|||
|Specialized Press Prize||Monos||Won|
|Miskolc International Film Festival||20 September 2019||Emeric Pressburger Prize – Best Film||Monos||Won|||
|International Confederation of Art Cinemas Jury's Prize||Monos||Won|
|San Sebastián International Film Festival||27 September 2019||Sebastiane Award||Monos||Won|||
|Latino Media Fest||3 October 2019||Best Latin American Film||Monos||Won|||
|Ourense Film Festival||5 October 2019||Carlos Velo Award – Best Director||Alejandro Landes||Won|||
|Best Performance||Julianne Nicholson||Won|
|BFI London Film Festival||12 October 2019||Best Film||Monos||Won|||
|British Independent Film Awards||1 December 2019||Best International Independent Film||Monos||Nominated|||
|London Film Critics' Circle Awards||30 January 2020||Foreign-language Film of the Year||Monos||Nominated|||
|Technical Achievement Award||Jasper Wolf||Nominated|
- List of submissions to the 92nd Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film
- List of Colombian submissions for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film
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