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Monos 2019



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About the Monos 💬

''Show me energy. Show me strength. Show me courage''

MONOS, Alejandro Landes' third feature, is survivalist saga set on a remote mountain in Latin America.

The film tracks a young group of soldiers and rebels - bearing names like Rambo, Smurf, Bigfoot, Wolf, Boom-Boom, Swede, Dog, and Lady - who keep watch over an American hostage, Doctora Sara Watson (Julianne Nicholson). The teenage commandos perform military training exercises by day and indulge in youthful hedonism by night, an unconventional family bound together under a shadowy force known only as The Organization. After an ambush drives the squadron into the jungle, both the mission and the intricate bonds between the group begin to disintegrate. Order descends into chaos and within MONOS the strong begin to prey on the weak in this vivid, cautionary fever-dream.

With a rapturous score by Mica Levi, director Alejandro Landes examines the chaos and absurdity of war from the perspective of adolescence, recalling LORD OF THE FLIES and BEAU TRAVAIL in a way that feels wholly original. Landes brings together a diverse young cast of both seasoned professionals and untrained neophytes and thrusts them into an unforgiving, irrational and often surreal environment where anything can happen - even peace.


Q: How did this project come about?

Alejandro Landes: There has been a seemingly endless civil war in Colombia, a war with many fronts: paramilitaries, guerrillas, Narcos, the government, foreign actors and everything seems to be coming to a head. The fragile possibility of peace is in the air, and it's been a long time coming. MONOS explores this moment through the prism of the war movie. Though this is my generation's first chance, this is not Colombia's first peace process and so it feels plagued by ghosts. These ghosts inspired me to shape the film like a fever dream.

Q: How did the situation in Colombia directly inspire this movie?

Alejandro Landes: The former President was given the Nobel Peace Prize last year for signing a peace agreement between FARC, the main guerrilla group, and the government, but this is a peace that was rejected in the ballot box by a referendum and had to be pushed through by executive decree. The accord calls for all guerillas brandishing machine guns in the mountains and jungles to give up their weapons and head into the towns and cities. It's still unclear how they will be received - will they be welcomed and helped to start anew or killed in the streets for revenge or forgotten?

Also, despite the agreement with the guerilla's commanders, many fear that dissident squadrons have splintered off to wage a war of their own, like you begin to see in MONOS.

These questions create a ticking time bomb.

Q: You drop the viewer headlong into an unspecified environment devoid of context. Discuss your strategy here...

Alejandro Landes: The idea, from the story to the production design, was to create an atemporal world, out of place, out of time, far away from everything - with this group of kids who is being trained and watched over by some unknown force. They're on a mission, part of a clandestine army. They're a squad of soldiers in the 'back' lines of a war - but also just a tight-knit pack of teenagers. Though the specifics of the Colombian civil war are the source of inspiration, the idea was always for the experience of the film to cross borders and exist as a world in and of its own.

Q: What fascinated you about the subject of teenage commandos?

Alejandro Landes: Most of us have dreamed, more than once, of running off with our friends to someplace far away and doing whatever we wanted without anyone watching over us or telling us what to do. 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. Much more than an exploration of child soldiers, this film speaks to adolescence because it's then that we start fighting to understand who we are and who we want to become... 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.

Q: What is their specific mission in MONOS?

Alejandro Landes: They're guarding a prisoner of war. Rebel groups all around the world take prisoners, for politics or money, to fuel their fight. Generally, the prisoner is cared for by the lowest rung of the hierarchy, which tend to be the youngest soldiers. Sometimes, kids. It's the cheapest way of keeping a hostage. These soldiers are generally positioned in the rearguard or a remote outpost but the conflict there can be just as intense and revealing as in the front lines.

Q: Describe the group dynamic here - it's beyond political alignment, even gender...

Alejandro Landes: In war, the lines get blurry. So do political affiliations. Left? Right? After a while, does it even matter? This is particularly evident in drawn-out conflicts with many fronts like Colombia, or Syria, where the fog of war opens the door to mercenary or purely personal fighting. There is no single protagonist in this film. The main character is the group: a teenage squad with the code name Monos. Through a fluid point of view, we follow this band as they try to stick together when things get more and more hazy.

Q: What were some of your strategies for the score?

Alejandro Landes: My previous film had no music where the source wasn't visible on-screen. I'm sensitive to music in film and believe it has to be used sparingly and with pointed purpose. MONOS is monumental yet also minimal in its aesthetic, and Mica Levi stayed true to that with her music - it's very impactful, yet there's no more than 23 minutes of music in the movie.

In a film with so many protagonists, the key to the music was about creating character. In a way, it was like a Peter and the Wolf approach, playing to the fable quality of the film. The main musical characters are two epic whistles, made by Mica by blowing into empty bottles in her apartment. The first is an authority whistle, which is shrill and always the same. It evokes the presence of The Organization. The other is a bird-like whistle which speaks to the bond between the kids; it starts raw and gets more melodic as the film progresses.

Also, there's timpani which has some bass and plays with the authority whistle to lay down ''the law.'' This is the sound of the shadowy force that tries to control the group from a distance. Also, there are rises that act as a shot of adrenaline, directly inspired by EDM music, but Mica shaped them to feel twisted and thicker - they stand on their own, without a drop. When there's a big leap in locations, the sound changes but the music doesn't - it acts more narratively than environmentally.

Q: What is the significance of the title?

Alejandro Landes: It's a common prefix in Spanish and comes from the Greek word for ''alone'' or ''one'', and it's the codename of the squad in the movie. In terms of the arc of the story, we come a long way from the ''band of brothers'' at the beginning to the ''last man standing'' at the end of the film...

Q: What are you trying to say through the violence you depict in MONOS?

Alejandro Landes: Violence is an inherent part of war and therefore an inescapable experience for this young squad and their hostage. The intention was not to depict a gory or romantic violence that onscreen can appear fun or brave but rather a real, chilling violence that is horrid even to the executor. War is inside of us, as a species.

Q: Do you see hope for Colombia, and for the world at large?

Alejandro Landes: I do, and that's why I made this movie. Certainly not as an answer but as part of a past, present and possibly future conversation. It's true that despite the peace agreement, some dissident guerillas have refused to put down their guns and paramilitary groups continue to kill social workers and union leaders. The situation is volatile and there's a lot of anger in Colombia and in the world today. This anger seems to be bubbling to the surface everywhere and maybe that's good because you cannot look way. You are forced to engage, to ask questions. MONOS, at the ending, comes home in a very physical way, and confronts us with a question.

Monos Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Alejandro Landes

Writing Credits

Alejandro Landes and Alexis Dos Santos (Screenplay)

Alejandro Landes (Story)


Julianne Nicholson

Moises Arias

Sofia Buenaventura

Deiby Rueda

Sneider Castro

Karen Quintero

Laura Castrillón

Julian Giraldo

Paul Cubides

Wilson Salazar

Jorge Román

Music by

Mica Levi

Cinematography by

Jasper Wolf

Genres: Drama, Thriller

Countries: Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Uruguay, United States, Switzerland, Denmark

Monos Official Trailer

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