Out in the World: SF Italian cultural institute to show 'Monica' for Pride Month

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Friday June 9, 2023
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Monica (Trace Lysette) looks at her mother Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson) as she looks at herself in the mirror after Monica helped her put some lipstick on. Photo: Courtesy IMDb<br>
Monica (Trace Lysette) looks at her mother Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson) as she looks at herself in the mirror after Monica helped her put some lipstick on. Photo: Courtesy IMDb

San Francisco film buffs will be able to see Andrea Pallaoro's trans-themed "Monica" at a special showing and reception next week.

The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco is showing the 2022 film free to the public for Pride Month.

"Monica" follows the title character, played by transgender actor Trace Lysette, as she journeys home to Ohio from California to care for her dying mother, Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson), who has dementia. Eugenia threw Monica out of the family's home decades before after discovering she is transgender. The cast is rounded out by Monica's younger brother, Paul (Joshua Close), and his wife Laura (Emily Browning).

Pallaoro, a 41-year-old gay Italian man who has lived in the U.S. for about 25 years, started co-writing "Monica" with Orlando Tirado in 2015-16, he said. The story is loosely based on one of his friends.

"Back then, I really felt like there was an urgency to tell the story," he said, explaining to the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview from Los Angeles that he didn't expect the importance it would take on during the years it took to make the 1-hour, 53-minute English-language film. Disappointed by the current anti-transgender backlash throughout the country, he said the movie "is as relevant as ever."

He hopes audiences will be able to connect with the lead character. The movie is shot in a Mise-en-scène (a French term meaning "putting on stage") style with a square aspect ratio making for tight frames, closely cropping the characters and scenes with the camera lens' angled view, actors' body language, dark and light hues of the decor and scenery, and sparse dialogue to tell the story.

"I wanted to give depth and complexity to all the members of the family," Pallaoro said. "It was important to experience the distance that she had taken from her family" and the "disconnection" that was "even more enhanced by the geography, the distance."

It "was very important to use the paradigm of Monica's experience to explore the themes, the complexities, and the consequences of abandonment," Pallaoro said, explaining that when he explores the subject he doesn't just mean the "experience of being physically abandoned."

Pallaoro also means "the experience of not being recognized, not being understood, [and] not being seen for who you are," he said. "I think that is something that is so inherently human. It is something that we can all connect to. To a certain extent, we all experience. It's something that really shapes our soul, happiness, shapes our sense of identity of who we are, but also our relationships with the outside world."

"Monica" has received accolades at film festivals around the world. "It's very pleasant to see people reacting not just positively towards the film, but to see the film having an impact," he said.

The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco, under the auspices of the Consulate General of Italy, is celebrating Pride Month 2023 with the film screening.

Annamaria Di Giorgio, the cultural institute's director, stated in an email to the B.A.R. that it was proud to show Pallaoro's "touching and intimate movie" for Pride Month. She noted that "Monica" received an 11-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival last year. Di Giorgio hopes the film will "further bridge our countries."

Pallaoro will be at the "Monica" showing and reception at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco, 710 Sansome Street, Tuesday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6. To reserve a seat, click here or email, [email protected]

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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