Little Boy is opening in theatres on April 24 and this is one movie that you will not want to miss making it a special weekend outing for you and your family. The Editor of Catholic365.com, Deborah Burton, got to review this entertainment gem with its luscious cinematography, strong cast of characters and heartwarming story that puts marvelous back into movies. Here is a link to the movie trailer for your review.
Little Boy introduces a 7 year old boy, Pepper (Jakob Salvati) whose height makes him a target of bullies, barely tolerated by his older brother, London (David Henrie) and isolated from other friendships, except for one lifelong “partner” - his father James Busbee (Michael Rapaport). Pepper’s challenges increase when his best and only friend must do his duty and go to war. As with most highly imaginative and persistent 7 year olds, Pepper tries to figure out how he can bring his dad back home, but his imaginative and entertaining ideas are also sprinkled with some practical good works that help him evolve though a wonderful cast of characters including Dr. Fox (Kevin James) his physician; Teacup (Abraham Benrubi), a homeless man; Ben Eagle (Ben Chaplin) a famous magician; Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) an ostracized Japanese-American, two local priests, Fr. Crispin (Eduardo Verástegui) and pastor, Fr. Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) and nun (Ali Landry); and Emma (Emily Watson) his devoted mother.
The Producers of Little Boy are Leo Severino, Eduardo Verástegui, and Alejandro Gómez Monteverde and will be released by by Open Road Films.
Alejandro Gómez Monteverde also directed Little Boy and was co-writer with Pepe Portillo. Monteverde wrote and directed his first Metanoia film, Bella, which won the “People's Choice Award” top prize at the 2006 Toronto International Film.
Monteverde shared with Catholic365.com some insights into the creation of Little Boy. In a following post Catholic365.com will feature the Producer/Actor’s View with an interview with Eduardo Verástegui.
1) Alejandro, you got your inspiration for Bella while driving across the US and by the time your car parked in California you had the script mostly completed. So where did the inspiration for Little Boy come from?
I started out wanting to tell a story of an underdog. Everyone at one point in their lives feels like an underdog. Feels like everyone is bigger than themselves and you feel very small against any challenges you may be facing, or anything you might want to achieve. And that was pretty much the beginning of the story. Then I started exploring characters---and came up with a story of little boy. Why? Because children are ultimate underdogs with limited resources. They depend on the adult world and what can they do when they are facing major challenges in their lives, and what tools do they have to overcome those particular challenges? Then we started to explore, what are the other challenges that a little boy could face like, what if he was short and what was his biggest challenge…and what if he loses his only friend and what if it is his father. and we can tell the story of the bond of love between father and son, and what could break that bond was going to war, and that put the time period of WWII. So that is how we came up with the time period of the 1940s.
Then we discovered Norman Rockwell illustrations. When Pepe and I grew up in Mexico we did not know about Norman Rockwell's work, and when I saw them I was really inspired by his work because he was able to capture the colloquial lifestyle of the United States, mostly in the 40’s. It was a stretch of reality. I wanted to tell a story that felt more of a tale, like tell a fairy tale without the fairies, like a magical story. So it started coming together and I thought it would be a simple story and it would take me about 3 months to write it. But I started diving into it and it ended up that the only tool that the little boy had was believing in something greater than himself. His only power was the power of faith. And that’s where the story became complex. Because it really requires a child to believe that they can move mountains with faith. You kind of start losing that as you grow older because reason kicks in and you think, no, that ‘s impossible.
So all of these things started coming in the complexities of the world, which is WWII. World War is never black or white, it’s always gray. Its always very difficult when to think out if it’s good or bad. It’s complex. My opinion is nobody ever wins in a war, even the winners have losses.
There were a lot of different layers to the story and it ended up taking me 3 years. So there’s a line from Bella, “so, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I set out to write it in 3 months and 3 years later, I was finishing the script. It was a long journey.
2) In Little Boy you do dual roles of Writer and Director. Do you prefer one role over other?
I always prefer directing. The only reason that I write is because it’s really hard for me to find stories that I can read and really connect with. So in the end it takes 3-4 years of your life, so you want something that you can be really passionate about it.
I became a writer more of a necessity than love for it. So I always prefer to direct. I love the adrenaline and excitement from being on the set. I believe my path for now is Writer/Director. I just finished one new script and am working on another.
3) Ever since you were a student sleeping on a couch in the University Film Dept. you have overcome adversity to get to this point of writing and directing films. Do you provide opportunities through Metanoia to help other writers, producers, actors, directors realize their dream?
Yes, we are already doing it We are creating a platform for filmmakers to come and join us on the adventure. But, in the end, it’s all about how good our newest film does in order to create the platform and open opportunities for other storytellers out there. That’s why it’s important that this movie Little Boy comes to fruition and does well at the box office, because we are the underdogs.
This is a David and Goliath where Little Boy is David, but shorter, and Goliath is bigger because it’s called The Avengers. We are coming out against huge blockbuster films in the summer and and we do not have marketing dollars behind it and we only rely on word of mouth, that’s all we have. And in order for a movie like this to do well, the audience needs to go and see these types of movies to get Hollywood to open their doors to make more movies like this. The more people support this movie, the more funding opportunities become available to allow us to create a platform to welcome filmmakers and storytellers to come and join us. Right now, we are at a very critical moment in path of company. This movie could decide what could happen with the future of our company and we are relying on the word of mouth, So it is very important that we have people go and see this on opening weekend April 24th.
In the end this is Show Business, and if and there is no “business” then there is no more “show” or funding for other films. But more than that, we are trying to balance the content of movies out there. There is a lot of darkness out there, more movies like heavy darker films and we need to make movies that have positive messages, that are inspirational messages to balance what is out there. And if we do well, that will encourage all the other film makers to want to make more movies like this.
The only problem with that is is the audience goes to see movies that they know are in theatres. So the more they see commercials then they are more aware that the movie is in the theaters and more likely they may go dee it. The problem with Little Boy is that the movie will be in the theaters, but we don’t know if the audience knows this and that is why we need people like authors and readers of Catholic365.com and their social networks’ word of mouth to tell everybody that the movie comes out the weekend of April 24th and encourage everyone to go see it that weekend. That is the most important weekend to see it because the next weekend other blockbuster movies come out. So if we don’t do well opening weekend, most likely the big budget blockbuster movies will crush us.
We have done our best and we feel the audience will be inspired by Little Boy
4) Both Bella and Little Boy have strong family undertones and importance of faith. How has your family and faith impacted your life?
My parents and family are the inspiration of my work and my foundation. I grew up in a very solid family. My parents pretty much lived for us kids and we were constantly told how much they loved us.
The family is the foundation of our society and if you have strong families, you have a strong society.
One of our Challenges that we are facing in today’s society is that families are being broken very easily and we have a lot of dysfunctional families out there. I am trying to make movies that inspire us to come back and make dysfunctional families into functional families, as change begins in us. So we can change things. Love overcomes everything.It’s a matter of inspiring people to make a difference, create at least a meaningful conversation. It starts with conversation. It is making movies that entertain, but at the same time propose a thing, I do not like making preachy films and I am never preachy because, as a filmmaker, I am no one to preach. All I try to do is to propose things, to create a conversation, to ask a question through a film that I make, and that’s all I want is to ask a question.
The problem that I am facing is that I am a victim of media always putting my films in box and labeling them. I make movies for all values, and it hurts when you make a movie but people conscientiously or unconscientously put you in a box and label you and this creates an automatic attitude that eliminates possibility….like.."I don’t want to see that movie because it’s this or that." Well how do you know? Go see it. That is the problem with labeling and it’s the biggest problem we are facing in our society here in the United States. The minute someone meets you, they want to know what votes you are on and who are you, and they want to label you and find every day that you are different and argue, instead of going the opposite direction. We need to kind of put aside the things where we disagree and find common ground
It is impossible to work with people who can agree on everything , but the more often we find more things in common and if we focus on these things that we agree on, then we can start talking about things that matter and make a difference.
I find it very frustrating for me as a filmmaker being labeled and put in a box that deters others from viewing a film because of that label.
It took me three years to try to make a movie that proposes a theme and that’s not preachy, and then somebody without even seeing the movie says, “Oh that’s a faith based film only"…or "its only about preaching this and preaching that” and the minute they do that, it eliminates a lot or people potentially seeing it. It’s a sad thing , but what can break the chain of criticism is when people see it and let the movie speak for itself…. Let audiences decide for themselves..
There are many challenges-----critics hate movies like this. I feel almost like they hate it before they even see it, just by mocking it. But I made a movie about believing in the impossible. So it seems impossible that Little Boy will be successful out there at times because there is so much competition in the movie industry. However, I have a lot of hopes that we made a great film that will get to people’s heart…if audiences see film opening weekend, we will be okay.
We put our hearts and souls into this for 5 years in exchange for an hour and half for audience time.
4) Why do the movie trailers say “May not be suitable for children under 13”?
I don’t understand either…people have no problem showing offensive sexual scenes on tv, film and billboards that are exposed to children every day...but if you introduce touching things of truth….like the racial things like the Japanese internment …..it happened and it’s historic and you actually learn about not holding resentment and hate in your heart. Just because somebody has the face of the enemy doesn’t’ make them the enemy.. So I guess it got PG 13 because of that type of content.
However I Have 7 yr old daughter who has seen the movie four times and each time she gets a different message and asks important questions about life and then we talk about things that matter, things that are important issues in our society. We are all different and tend to not accept those who are different.
I screened the film for classrooms of 8-10 year olds and they completely loved it. It may not be as interesting for 5 to 6 year old children.
5) What advice do you have for others who want to succeed?
Whatever you will be doing, you will face a lot of challenges. One phrase that I use and live by is ”Limitation is Creation”. so you will always be limited, however, don’t take that limitation as a barrier. Use that limitation for your own advantage and use that to try to think outside the box and figure out how you can achieve something with what you have in front of you. And the second advice is to be really focused.
I use this when I hear of lot of criticism. “oh whatever you are doing is wrong”…..”you shouldn’t be doing that”…..”it’s impossible”. Well, the little boy in the movie, when he’s trying to move the bottle, he tells the magician that I don’t even want to try because they’re gonna make fun of me….but the magician tells him, “not if you move the bottle”. But still he was hesitant. And the magician says, “Ignore the world and focus” And that to me is precious advice, because if we listen to the world, we’re handing people our life and not running our own life. You have to ignore the world and focus on what you are called to do.
That doesn’t mean there will not be challenges and it is not an easy path…and if you know that you are going into a career or an industry like making movies, and you know that it is gonna be really hard….then you’ve already won half the battle, because you know you are already aware it will be really hard, and you prepare for really tough moments, and you will have apply “Ignore the World and Focus” and ”Limitation is Creation”.
Be creative with the resources you have in front of you. If you have one room and one actor, then make a story with one room and one actor and really try to make progress with that and actually become a reality. That could be applied to any area of the film business writing, directing, cinematography… or whatever area that anyone wants to go into.
7) Do you have the next project in mind?
I am writing one and I have finished one script and it will be hopefully our next movie. It focuses on where does evil come from, so it is a more mature film, but an important one. We face so many evil acts in world….is this from twisted minds or outside evil forces?
But for right now I hope everyone will go and watch Little Boy on April 24th weekend.