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Alejandro Landes

A battle for survival takes many forms in Monos, a tense tale of child soldiers. With clear echoes of Lord of the Flies, this meditative thriller from director Alejandro Landes constantly shifts our sympathies so that we end up seeing many of these characters as both victims and villains.

"Completely and utterly thrilling."

High in the mountains of South America, above the billowing clouds but with gunshots heard in the distance, a motley group of children and teenagers train and wait for instruction. They stave off boredom by having sex, playing and fighting. This might be a teen rave gone feral but for the deadly seriousness underlined by the presence of an American hostage. The child soldiers all go by blunt monikers such as Bigfoot, Wolf, Dog and Lady, and they initially seem indistinguishable, each playing war hero, although it’s soon apparent that they don’t have the experience or maturity to handle the responsibilities (and massive firearms) bestowed upon them. The film reveals the interpersonal dynamics within the group, as Bigfoot tries to assert his authority over his fellow soldiers, illustrating just how susceptible people are to abuse their position once they get that first taste of power.

This wildly original film from Landes and screenwriter Alexis dos Santos inspired feverish buzz at both Sundance and Berlin. Its reputation is well deserved – as the camera prowls over mud and organic decay, cutting swathes through the jungle, all to the strains of Mica Levi’s visceral score, Monos is completely and utterly thrilling.