Meet the Filmmaker: Hique Montanari – Yonlu
Hique Montanari is a screenwriter and film director. He directed TV programs and series, documentaries and short fiction films. His first 35mm film, the short film FOGO (2009), participated in international festivals, and was awarded in Argentina as Best Short Film and Best Cinematography.
Yonlu is his debut feature film.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the film?
YONLU is a fiction film based on the real story of a 16 year-old boy who, aided by the internet, won over the world with his talent for music and art. Fluent in five languages, an illustrator, photographer, and writer of experimental music, YONLU had a critical view of society and shared it through a network of virtual friends from all continents. However, in the seclusion of his bedroom, YONLU signed up to a forum for potential suicides. On it, in 2006 he found the encouragement to take his own life, which left those around him shocked and dumbfounded. The release of a posthumous album with 14 of his songs by a major New York label has drawn further attention to his immense talent. In addition to a fictional narrative, the film YONLU uses the languages of animation, musical, and video-clip to tell the story of an extremely creative boy along the pathways of the internet, which pathways seemed to be so bright and welcoming but which also concealed dark, dangerous corners.
What was your biggest inspiration to make this film/How did you get involved or attached to the project?
My starting point, but not yet clear on the idea of the film, was YONLU’s suicide in 2006. From there, we added the detail and approaches given by the press in the following years. It occurred to me in 2009 that it was a multi-ingredient story to be adapted for a screenplay – there was a plot, a plot, a narrative, a relevant theme, and a biography that allowed the use of a huge artistic legacy. That same year, the first script treatment appeared. The life and work of YONLU are mixed together. There is no way to dissociate one thing from another. I discovered a teenager who projected beyond his time (2006) and had a very artistic-intellectual production far above his age. This was the teenager I discovered and this was the character I built for the movie. The musician YONLU, his most significant internationally produced music production, is the first cut of this rich character. The YONLU musician and his production is the foreground of the movie.
As a filmmaker there are many ups and downs in the process, what was your absolute favourite and/or funniest part of making/producing this film?
Dealing with themes like life, legacy and death was, for me, rescuing the story of YONLU and all its nuances, rescuing and throwing his artistic legacy to the world, driven through the narrative of cinema, bringing up the discussion that Suicide is a topic that should be discussed. Through dialogue and discussion, a light is shed on the subject. I appreciate that it is from there that help can arise, through the clarification and the removal of the veils. Throwing a light on the subject. Not leaving you in the shade.
What does a film festival like Byron Bay Film Festival mean to you and your work?
A festival like The Byron Bay Film Festival is very important for an independent, bold and authorial film like YONLU. The film has won major awards in Brazil and Europe. I recently won the Best First Time Director (Feature) award in Los Angeles, USA. We had not yet debuted in Australia and were looking for an opportunity to show YONLU to the audience of this fantastic country. The Byron Bay Film Festival provides us with this rich and unique opportunity to have the pleasure of presenting our work to the Australian audience.
Byron Bay Film Festival showcases an array of entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking films. Do you feel that your film helps people ‘Dream With Their Eyes Open’? And if so how?
Yes, I do! The film works on some narrative layers – the Yonlu in real life, the Yonlu in virtual life, the music, the interview with the analyst. My idea, therefore, was also to reproduce a little the fragmented way we live today.
Still, between the narrative layers, we have the scenes with the animations of Yonlu’s illustrations (most of the animated illustrations are original of Yonlu) and other animations, the scenes of an imaginary that do not fit linearly in the present tense of the film as those of the astronaut, which, in themselves, open another layer in the film’s narrative, the scenes that lie in the limbo between the real and the fantasy (Yonlu alone in the supposedly crowded classroom, as the sound hints at him) . The film, since its first script treatment, has been nonlinear, has been fragmented between indoor and outdoor situations, reality and fantasy, live action and animation, behind-the-scenes framing (lights, studio mats) and viewing scenography that closes, along with the change of frame, in its respective niche (the bedroom, the dining room, the therapy session).
The idea was to treat the film’s narrative as an in / out of Yonlu’s thought and universe and out of it, flowing in a fine line between one and the other. Often mixing them, confusing them. Both YONLU songs used as a soundtrack and animations made from his drawings have narrative function in the film. Their songs tell of the character’s mood and mood, as do all the animations. That is, it uses YONLU’s work as a narrative element of its own history and trajectory. YONLU’s illustrations have a technique that suggests movement as well as a lot of dramatic density. It is as if these illustrated characters ask for life and movement. That’s what we gave them.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to future independent filmmakers?
Cinema can change the world. Cinema can make us have a better life, with more love, compassion, understanding, less fear, more awareness, more empathy and solidarity! Cinema shows us the past so that we have a better future. Cinema shows us the future for us to improve our present tense. Do not have fear. Scream action and take up your space. Make the difference.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
YONLU’s story is not a joyful story. It is not a happy ending movie. However, its artistic legacy is of internationally recognised value and importance. In this story, there is no way to dissociate the joyful from the sad, the enthusiastic of the depressed, the up and down, just as there is no way to dissociate the image of the avant-garde teenage artist getting a push for suicide through the virtual forum, instead of a friend hug. They are two weights, two measures, there is no story without either. Therefore, in the film, we try to find a space that dose and balance this duality with the most faithful to the believable. Another challenge was to produce a bilingual Portuguese/English movie. A movie without English would not be a movie about YONLU. Besides his fluency in the language, almost all his compositions are in English, his contact with the world was through the English language. All English dialogues in the movie were originally spoken in this language. English is used to accurately measure the number of scenes important to the film’s narrative. If 70% of the scenes are in English, it is because these scenes are important for telling and developing the story. We did not choose to translate to Portuguese because we wanted to keep the original. And English today is a widespread language like the first or second language of many countries. YONLU fans and the general public are very familiar with the language.
What drives you as a filmmaker?
Touch other people’s lives with my movies. Make my films a cathartic experience, a renewal, a celebration of everything that moves us forward and in a great way!
Anything interesting or unique about the filmmaking process for this film, any hiccups along the way, any happy coincidences that changed the films direction?
Yonlu celebrates life, celebrates artistic making as a form of expression, celebrates independently made music, celebrates early talents that often leave us very early, as in the case of the title artist. YONLU’s precocity, his young age for developing such a deep and complex vision and thoughts of the world and human relations, his intelligence for discerning and generating deep and even airtight reflections, his ideological positioning and the fact that he is a natural talent for the arts and a musician with a very strong experimental beat.
Is anything else you would like to share?
The first objective was to artistically explore YONLU’s private universe, meeting the wishes of his fans and introducing it to an even larger audience, and bringing to the film YONLU’s original vision of relationships between people. and those with world. Other objectives that are inseparable from the first were to address the issue of indiscriminate use of the internet and how fatal it can be for fragile people who need a hug but receive from an irresponsible anonymous push and provide a reflection on issues taboos, such as suicide, and how much human beings need to exercise empathy.
YONLU is a fiction film based on the real story of a 16-year-old boy who, aided by the internet, won over the world with his talent for music and art. Fluent in five languages, YONLU had a network of virtual friends on all continents. However, no one suspected he was also taking part in a forum for potential suicides.