Always a storyteller, Mikki del Monico ’89 launched into screenwriting and directing with his first feature film, Alto, in 2015. The movie includes music by Antigone Rising, founded by sisters Cathy ’90 and Kirsten Henderson ’92. During the making of the film, del Monico also made the transition from female to male — an experience he has chronicled for The Huffington Post and in a short video.
By Sherri Kimmel
Q: Alto is your first feature film, and there are a lot of references to Italian culture — music, dancing, food, the mob. Was this film an exploration of your roots?
A: Yes. It was also an exploration of stereotypes in the media. I wanted to tackle those stereotypes, particularly of the Mafia genre, which have been so ubiquitous and have shaped the way that non-Italians see Italian-American culture.
Q: The mother character, played by the well-known actress Annabella Sciorra, is confused about her cultural identity. Was the strugglingwith- one’s-identity theme a reflection of what you were going through at the time of the filming?
A: Completely, but with a caveat. At the time of the writing, there was this internal struggle about my identity, but I wasn’t consciously writing about it. I knew I didn’t feel right in my body, but I was writing myself into dealing with it rather than actively addressing it. In terms of why I chose to transition during the making of the film, it was because, as a director, I needed to get into the mindset of the character, and the character was about being her authentic self. And I thought, ‘I cannot direct this without doing that myself.’ You put so much of your heart into something, and when the heart is divided, it’s not the way to go into making a story about authenticity.
Q: How did you manage to deal with the stresses of making a film and transitioning?
A: They balanced each other out, because when I felt incredibly stressed out about coming into my own gender identity I was distracted by the film. As a Gemini, it worked perfectly. I actually think it was the best time for me to do it.
Q: Alto has won several awards at film festivals around the country — and in Spain. Why do you think it’s sparked such a positive reaction?
A: It appealed to people because it’s a comedy. People like to laugh. People also respond to the family aspect. And the love affair feels very genuine — that blossoming of something that completely catches you off guard. Some people love the music, some people love the relationship between the two women, some people love the whole family, and some people love the Italian part. I’ve had old Italian men come up to me and be like, “You got it!”
Q: You’ve been a film editor, a book editor, a personal trainer, a digital media assistant on a Semester at Sea ship. What’s next for Mikki del Monico?
A: I’ve been working on Alto, the Musical. That’s one of the reasons I retained the theatrical rights. I’m going to continue to write and hopefully direct again.