Japanese kaiju inspiration
comes to Bridgeport, CT in the humorous and bittersweet “Monsura is Waiting,” a campy and queer short film making waves at
film festivals around the country.
The film follows Betty and Dot, sisters who perform a nightly
(and mostly unattended) cabaret act concerning Monsura, a giant moth. The women
believe Monsura will one day rescue them from suburbia and carry them on
fuzzy-back to the tropical paradise in which they were supposedly born. Sibling
confrontation, hidden romance, and betrayal form the emotional backbone of this
fanciful-but-affecting short. The acting is spot-on, the production quality
excellent, and the story one-of-a-kind. Trust me; you’ll want to check this one
I spoke with Matthew Principe (“Monsura” producer), a cinephile and aspiring multimedia production
company-builder about the look, inspiration, and queer nature of the film.
Which came first: Monsura
or a tale of two sisters who have a failed nightclub act? How did the
production team think to combine these seemingly disparate elements?
The giant moth came first. Doesn’t every film start like that?
Our screenwriter, David Johnston, has always been a fan of films that are more
cultish than mainstream. “Monsura
is Waiting” is his homage to the Japanese kaiju films from the late 50’s/early 60’s. Some fans of that genre
will immediately get the influence. How David pondered “What if these
women were middle-aged Caucasian showgirls in Bridgeport, Connecticut?,” I will
never know, but I’m so glad he did!
His other works (mainly plays and operas) have delightful twists
to them that the audience get to discover as the stories unfold; and the
production team wanted to keep with that overtly theatrical whimsy with the
color palette and treatment. First time film director Kevin Newbury really was
the captain of this ship. He assembled a great production team, encouraging
everyone to embrace their shared theatrical and musical backgrounds. For
him, the film feels like it was made by musicians and theater artists – the
ideal group of collaborators to transport the audience to a somewhat familiar
place, but also peculiar – a magical realness, where one feels safe to go on
this absurd journey.
You describe the film as
having a “queer aesthetic;” what elements in particular do you think
are attractive to a queer audience?
It’s “queer” in that it’s strange – not part of the
normal. The two main characters are real outsiders, creating this (albeit
not the most gratifying) “show”, which is essentially a ritual to
Monsura. Betty and Dot fully believe in Monsura, like a deity – Betty in
particular. I think a lot of people can relate to the idea that there’s
another place for them, where they’ll be understood.
Betty’s a derelict diva – sort of that strong-willed, brash
woman, who is larger-than-life, whom gay audiences just worship. She’s a
wanna-be Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Stritch, Patti LuPone, who
doesn’t quite get there. Betty believes in her act, even if the audience
doesn’t. Who doesn’t love a story about a down-and-out diva waiting for her
comeback? Most of the creative team primarily works in opera, but grew up with
Madonna, Tina Turner, and Kylie Minogue videos, including Kevin and myself
(we’re co-producers). We’re all used to over-the-top personalities, like Betty,
and extreme emotional dynamics, and relish in it.
“Monsura is Waiting” is
sort of a mash-up of MTV-meets-opera-meets-Japanese horror aesthetic. There’s
also the rich color palette, which our audience appreciates. Vita Tzykun
(Production Designer), and Paul Carey (costume designer) created such vivid and
heightened looks for every scene and setting – Ruby reds, mustard yellows,
robin’s egg blues – such decadence.
What other filmmakers and
genres influenced Monsura, a
decidedly off-beat short film?
Besides the kaiju
films, Kevin’s vision was influenced by the 1937 film Stage Door with Katharine
Hepburn and Ginger Rogers – not for the same reasons – but that juxtaposition
certainly adds to the outlandish feel of “Monsura
is Waiting.” Others have said further influences are David Lynch with some
Pedro Almodavar thrown in for good measure.
Monsura has an entire
fictitious world built around it, from island communities to strange
nightclubs; why the decision to go more fantasy than reality? Do you think that
a fantastical setting can say things that realistic fiction cannot?
When situations are presented further away from conventional
reality, the universal human conditions become more pronounced. The sci-fi
genre absolutely gets this. While not everyone is probably waiting for a giant
moth to come and take them away from their current environment, one can
identify with that desire.
What is your favorite
moment of the film?
Well I do have to say the Club Toho scene (a flashback to a drag
bar) is just … the most. It may or may not have been the first time this
hirsute frame was magically transformed into a drag queen!
What festivals have and
will Monsura be screened at in the
We’ve had a great festival season, being part of over 18
festivals since April, winning Best Fantasy Film at the Mexico International
Film Festival, and a Silver Remi Award at the WorldFest-Houston International
Film Festival. In September, “Monsura” will
be at the Cincinnati Film Festival (September 19) as part of their Midnight
Special program; and the Coney Island Film Festival (September 20).
The “Monsura crew” is
currently trying to secure funding for online distribution, but check out their
for information about public screenings near you! And, enjoy a short teaser