This 37 year old filmmaker’s story is one of perseverance, dedication, and love – much like Little Boy, his latest work. Beginning in film school, when Alejandro had to sell his own car and give up an apartment to fund his first short film, his passion for movies only grew.
To date, two of his three released films are award-winners and critically acclaimed. Taking the award for Best Directorial Debut with Waiting for Trains, and the Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award with his last film Bella, Alejandro’s talent as a Director/Screenwriter is well recognized by the industry. But after marrying the love of his life, Ali Landry, in 2006, Monteverde began to develop a new project.
Coming to theaters April 24, Little Boy is an inspirational story of an underdog; a young boy who will stop at nothing to bring his father home. Monteverde’s brilliant filmmaking shapes every ounce of this poignant movie. Partnering with blockbuster Producers Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, and Eduardo Verástegui, Little Boy is sure to be a hit with every audience.
Sonoma Christian Home recently connected with Alejandro for an in-depth interview. SCH Editor-at-Large Dawn Gregg reports.
SCH: Can you please describe your writing process for our readers? What do your writing days or writing seasons look like?
AM: They’re pretty much an all day thing. When I start writing a script, I literally wake up and I go to my office and I write for maybe like 10 hours straight. Little Boy took me three years to write. At first, I always have to be secluded which is the hardest part. It’s when you start structuring the story and really coming up with the idea.
It’s not the technical part of the process. It’s more like freethinking. And when I do that, I really have to be secluded. In the middle of nowhere or in front of the ocean or something like that. So I have to leave my family for two to three weeks. And then once I know what I’m going to write the process is more technical.
SCH: Where was the kernel of the idea for Little Boy formed? What was your inspiration?
AM: Well, I wanted to tell the ultimate underdog story. I’ve been an underdog myself my whole life. I’ve always been facing very great challenges. I’ve always had to find my own way to things. Even trying to get into film school… I’m from Mexico, being a minority you know, I’ve always identified with the underdog automatically. I don’t watch sports but if I start watching sports the first question I ask is, “Who does everybody think is going to win?” And whoever everybody thinks is going to win, I like the opposite guy.
SCH: I love that.
AM: So I wanted to explore that. And when I was exploring it, I realized that the ultimate underdogs are children. They don’t have many tools available to them. If they’re facing a problem it’s not like they can call their lawyers.
SCH: This shows you have a sensitive heart.
AM: Children are not self sufficient and they depend on their parents or any institution that they are under the care of. So how do they proceed if they are facing a big challenge? And one of the things children do is use their imaginations. That’s how the story and character developed for Little Boy. And then, I wanted to make him even more of an underdog. So I gave him a very short height and no friends. He is the kid that is being bullied at school. And nobody defends him.
But he has one person that changes his world. That is his father. So what if a boy was to lose everything he had? Everything he had in his mind was his friendship with his father. His best friend. And then to continue to explore that. Who would be the greatest enemy of all time? I went to the extreme, you know? World War II! He realized in his own mind that the only way he could bring his father back from World War II was to try to end the war himself.
So you know it requires the mind of a child to do that. And then when I started to explore more about that world. I came across one of the – in my opinion – greatest illustrators of all time: Norman Rockwell. And I’ve fallen in love with his depictions of the United States… and the colloquial lifestyle. So all of that happened within three weeks. I secluded myself in a cabin. I don’t even remember where. And then, that’s where I put all these ideas on paper. I thought it was going to take me six months… but it ended up taking me three years, because I realized I was handling and dealing with very sensitive subject matters and very complex subject matters.
SCH: You mentioned the complex issues that are addressed in this film. I admire the way that you tackle and unravel the subject of racism in this story. What is it that eventually softens London’s heart towards Hashimoto and brings him out of a place of oppression?
AM: Yeah… There is a moment when he sees his little brother not giving up. This is when he truly appreciates his brother. We will go through tribulations. Really hard times in our lives at one point or another. Everybody will. So nobody’s exempt from going through really difficult times in their lives. We have an option to deal in two ways.
One, is to resent it and to nourish hate and all those negative emotions that we have. Or the other one, is to get busy and to try to deal with it. These two decisions are portrayed in the film. You have London who starts to drink a little bit more and to hang out with people who are going through the same thing that he is but on the side of resentment. He starts building that resentment and hate in his heart and continues to nourish that.
And Little Boy in the opposite way… he realizes at a very young age that it’s better to be busy trying to do something and to be hopeful and grow. A lot of people think that they see more during the day… on a clear, beautiful day than at night. But, it’s at night when we see farther than during the day because during the day you literally measure how far you can see. You can see the horizon 7 miles away. So where the horizon is, is as far as your eye can see. But at night, when we think we cannot see as much, we can see the stars. We see way more in darker times.
So, for Little Boy, during his dark times that he was going through, he was able to use that to grow and to see farther. To grow up as a human being because at the end he went from hating Hashimoto to understanding him and somehow accepting the loss of his father. If you cannot change things the next step is you have to accept them. Little Boy goes through that.
So London sees this. Little Boy’s faith and the sort of love he has. This love breaks the barrier and the hate London had nourished in his heart.
SCH: Okay, Jakob is amazing as Pepper (Little Boy). He’s an amazing talent. If you had to describe him using only one word, what would the word be?
AM: I would say pure.
SCH: Pure. Oh, that’s beautiful. I love it.
AM: There’s a purity and pureness in his heart. I would say pureness of heart. There’s no malice. And now he’s 11 and I can still see it. Because I have gone like three years without seeing him. So yesterday for the first time, we went to a screening and I saw him and I saw in his eyes… he had not lost that.
SCH: You were with all sorts of different people from different backgrounds with different beliefs on set. Did you have opportunities to share your personal faith? Pray? Have religious discussions?
AM: So, what I like of the world is that there is a lot of variety out there. We are all unique. There is not two of us… there’s only one person of each. And that’s what makes our world. And the more we can learn to live together and respect each other and love each other the better. It’s very easy to love the one that agrees with you. That has no merit.
AM: Merit is to love the one who doesn’t think like you, the one who doesn’t agree with you. That’s the merit. And that’s always been my goal as a filmmaker. My way to communicate anything is through my work. I try not to engage… There are some people that are really good about it and that’s their calling. You know, they’re on the set and they’re really good about sharing their beliefs without being judgmental and so on.
I choose to speak through my work, to show what I’m made of and what I believe. But when it’s time, if I’m at a table and I’m with somebody who is an atheist or an agnostic, I’m never going to be a coward if somebody asks me about my faith. I’ll talk about it for days. I’m not afraid of talking about it but I am not the one to initiate because I feel like that’s not my gift.
I’m not really good with words. English is my second language. I’m always very careful. It’s like you have to be friends first. People listen to friends. So you know, of course the people that got to know me on the set and they became my friends… they know what I believe. You know, by seeing they way I try to live my life.
SCH: Beautiful. What lasting impression do you hope audiences carry with them as they leave theaters?
AM: It’s something I actually walk away with every time I see the movie. I’ve only lived this life so I don’t know how it went before me, but right now I feel like the world is pretty dark. It’s a very pessimistic and negative world.
Every time I see Little Boy, I see that he’s willing to believe the impossible, willing to keep going. He’s willing to not give up. It’s really hard when you make a movie and the movie itself is an underdog. If we don’t make money and the movie doesn’t do well, our journey is going to be really hard. We’re facing a major Goliath.
When we come out in theaters, we will face a really big challenge. We will be competing with movies that have 50-70 million dollars of marketing budgets. And these films have big names and so on. So you know, every time I see Little Boy it lights the fire in me. I’m like, you know what? If he was able to face his greatest fear and to act bravely, I should be able to do the same. And I think that’s the overall message that I’d like people to leave with. To not give up.
SCH: This film, Little Boy, is just as beautiful. Thank you so much, Alejandro.
AM: Well, thank you. Thank you, so much.
Little Boy will hit theaters on April 24. Spread the word about this little film. It’s one that has the potential to do big things!
Love this film? Check out our Producer Eduardo Verástegui Interview: ‘Little Boy’ Evokes Childlike Faith