It’s been five years and two child births coming, but today the film Bellyitch Bumpwatch alum, actress, model, mompreneur Ali Landry stars in and supported her husband Alejandro Monteverde to make, opens to audiences nationwide.
Little Boy is the coming-of-age World War II-era film about an 8-year old boy Pepper Flynt Busbee (Jakob Salvati) crippled with stunted growth who finds courage and uses the power of will, imagination and faith to try to bring his recently-deployed dad back from war.
Landry plays a woman whose husband leaves for war in the film and fun fact: her youngest, Valentin Francesco, appeared in the movie too while in utero (inside his mommy’s tummy) and out as an infant in one of the final film sequences. Landry is close to 9-months pregnant in one scene and another features her cradling then-newborn Valentin .
I got a chance to interview Monteverde who co-wrote, produced and directed the movie and gather more insight into its making.
He said he thought the movie would take three months to write but it ended up taking three years. From completion to editing to post production, it has turned into a 5 year project.
The previews project a very visual image of Americana. It’s not just a caricature but a living duplication of that era as I learned Monteverde created 95% of the town where Little Boy is set — from scratch.
“It was great to work with because we had real cement, light poles, streets and street signs, ” Monteverde reveals.
It’s worth it because scenes from the movie certainly evoke nostalgia of an era long passed. A real-authentic set distinguishes the movie from a lot of current films made in this era of CGI movie magic where scenes in a digital lab are created after the actors go home.
If the setting looks familiar maybe it’s because Monteverde got the inspiration for the entire town from one of those classic Normal Rockwell paintings. It certainly oozes of Midwestern puritanical innocence and optimism.
But that comfort and secure is abruptly interrupted with the realism of war, prejudice and discrimination, as it was a time when Japanese Americans were interned in camps.
The movie is also a modern fable set in the 1940s, Monteverde says of the story line that has several lessons interwoven throughout.
What also appears unique is that the film explores the vulnerability and emotions of a boy. These days movies about feelings are usually centered around female or little girl characters.
Another element that may stand out to movie goers is how Little Boy seems to evoke themes of God, religion, agnosticism and spirituality.
WATCH THE TRAILER
“The deeper I got into the movie, the more layers we uncovered,” the film maker reveals about the project which he says touches so many different themes. “It’s like when you plant a seed, you don’t know how it will come into fruition. As we saw the film take form, all those little things we were writing about in the beginning start to come out.”
There are a lot of subtexts, he adds.
“It’s about the power of the will and believing in the impossible…we are every day faced with many challenges in our lives and the world belongs to those who believe they can overcome those challenges,” added Monteverde.
“It depends how deep you want to go. You can take what you can from the external layers or you can watch it and discover the other layers; about discrimination, racism, faith v. superstition, will of man v. will of God.”
In the film, main character Pepper’s mentors include a Catholic priest advisor and an agnostic atheist shopkeeper Hashimoto, who Pepper befriends. Both influence Pepper and help him come away with what he is looking for and needs– a way to bring his dad back from war.
There has been a lot of buzz and chatter about the timeline of the movie which takes place before the US retaliated against the Japanese for its attack on Pearl Harbor by dropping the atomic bomb, euphemistically called a “Little Boy” on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There is an intricate link you’ll get when you see the movie, Monteverde explains.
Monteverde isn’t surprised by the various notions and interpretations the movie is getting.
“This movie explores the pain that World War II – a war that caused hurt to the world and mainly here in the United States, the hurt that happened at the home front” to those the soldiers left behind and had to deal with the consequence of their loved ones going to fight. “The foundation of the way the story was born was I wanted to tell the ultimate underdog story – the one that everyone is against.”
And there is a bit of art imitating life when it comes to the production in that vein.
Compared to his last award-winning project Bella which took top prize at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, Monteverde had a much bigger budget to utilize to breathe life into this project, about $20 million, but in the grand scheme compared to much larger blockbusters released each year, it’s quite modest, Montverde reveals.
And there he draws the parallels of the theme of the movie along with the symbolism of it being released a week before the highly anticipated Avengers sequel, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Monteverde spoke some about the challenges he faces for a movie that doesn’t have too many bill boards but will spread by ‘word of mouth.’
“The whole movie it about size…the small v. big..the David and Goliath story,” he muses. “The little boy being shorter than everyone else trying to bring about the end to the biggest war. We are little boy. The character.”
We are rooting it on because we love to support our Bellyitch bumpwatch alum families and cheer on the underdog.
Go see Little Boy this weekend and report back and let us know what you think in the comments below or in social media at @Bellyitch on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
The last two best director Oscars went to directors of Mexican origin, Alejandro González Iñárritu for Boyhood and Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity. Perhaps Monteverde can be the third!