Monda, Antonio 1962-

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Monda, Antonio 1962-

PERSONAL:

Born October 19, 1962, in Rome, Italy.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, 721 Broadway, New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY, faculty member. Director of films, including Morlotti, Istituto Luce, 1994; director of television programs, including Stranieri in America, Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1988; producer, Delighting in Contrasts, Criterion Collection, 2005, and Notes on My Father: An Interview with Isabella Rossellini, Criterion Collection, 2005; consulting producer, Marxist Poetry: The Making of "The Battle of Algiers," Criterion Collection, 2004; film editor, Mysteries of Life, Criterion Collection, 2003, and Reflecting Reality, Criterion Collection, 2003; actor, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Touchstone Pictures, 2004; still photographer, La Notte di San Lorenzo, United Artists Classics, 1982; also associated with Vitellonismo, Criterion Collection, 2004, and A Dying Breed: The Making of "The Leopard," Criterion Collection, 2004; also appeared in Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans & the Movies, Beachcomber Films, 2008. Curator of shows for Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, American Museum of Moving Image, and the Academy; U.S. representative, Italia Cinema; artistic director, Le Conversazioni.

AWARDS, HONORS:

David di Donatello Award for best new director, 1990, for Dicembre; Efe d'Oro, 2003, for La magnifica illusione; also received Carro d'Oro, Premio Cinema Giovane, Icaro d'Oro, and Premio Navicella.

WRITINGS:

(And director) Dicembre (screenplay), Aer 2/Istituto Luce/Rai Uno Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1990.

(Editor) Second Act: A Rediscovery of Italian Cinema, Second Season Is Presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 18-March 2, 1999, by Istituto Italiano Di Cultura, Cinecittá International, a Division of Ente Gestione Cinema, Olivares (Milan, Italy), 1999.

(Editor, with Mary Lea Bandy) The Hidden God: Film and Faith, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 2003.

La magnifica illusione: Un viaggio nel cinema americano, Fazi (Rome, Italy), 2003.

(With Graziana Diana) La Luna e il lago (screenplay), Radiotelevisione Italiana/Rai Fiction, 2006.

Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion, translated by Ann Goldstein, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Eileen Blumenthal and Julie Taymor) Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire; Theater, Opera, Film, 3rd revised and expanded edition, Abrams (New York, NY), 2007.

Also writer and director, with Anna Muscardin, of screenplay Oltre New York, 1986. Film critic, New York Review of Books and La Rivista dei Libri; cultural correspondent, La Repubblica.

SIDELIGHTS:

New York University film professor Antonio Monda has written and directed several films, but is perhaps best known for his works that examine the impact of religion on the modern film media. His subject is not the forthright use of religious themes in the medium, as in The Ten Commandments and The Last Temptation of Christ; instead, Monda looks at the ways in which modern religion and spirituality influence the genre from the inside. Both The Hidden God: Film and Faith and Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion examine the ways in which writers and directors allow religious belief to appear in their films. The Hidden God undertakes this examination through essays about the works of filmmakers by prominent critics; Do You Believe? uses the interview format to look at the beliefs of individual writers and directors.

"Conventional wisdom," wrote Brian Frye in Cineaste, "says that the only kind of religious fervor you get by going to the movies is sacrilegious. And many would cite Mel Gibson's recent effort [The Passion of the Christ] to the contrary as an object lesson, rather than a rebuttal. In The Hidden God … editors Mary Lea Bandy and Antonio Monda do their best to set conventional wisdom on its head, collecting essays on religion as ‘reflected through a glass, darkly’ in the movies." The editors operate on the idea that God and the depiction of God in film is usually not explicit, but rather implicit—evoking the idea of a "hidden God," casting a veil over the presence of God rather than implying an absence of divine movement. "On noting that this subject ‘is hidden from the characters, the audience, or both’ the editors ask: ‘Is God, His presence or absence, the inmost theme of any story? Why do so many filmmakers address spiritual ideas without overtly naming them: timor dei? Respect? Do they feel the need to create a kind of veil or filter of metaphor in treating so deep and complex a topic? Or are they afraid that the subject can too easily become uncommercial, or perhaps intellectually unsound’?" declared Gordon Matties in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. "The problem posed here is not unique to film, but belongs to the larger questions of theological aesthetics and the proper place of art in the religious imagination."

In Do You Believe? Monda explores questions similar to those he considered in The Hidden God. Do You Believe?, however, examines the belief systems of individual directors, writers, and other artists, and how they think their beliefs are demonstrated in their films. He does this by asking them two simple questions: "Do you believe in God?" and "How has your belief influenced the way you live your life?" "His deep interest in his friends' and colleagues' attitudes about religion," wrote Jessica Weaver on the BookLoons Web site, "led him to write Do You Believe? Entrancing from page one, the tome is a collection of the author's interviews with well known personalities." "Monda," declared Commonweal contributor Lawrence Joseph, "speaks with writers Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Elie Wiesel, Grace Paley, Derek Wolcott, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, Michael Cunningham, Paula Fox, and Nathan Englander; actress Jane Fonda; filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and David Lynch; architect Daniel Libeskind; and historian Arthur Scheslinger Jr." Many of these figures feel that the question of the existence of God lies at the very heart of their work and indeed, the entire compass of human artistic achievement. "Mr. Wiesel says, as does Mr. Monda at the beginning of the book," Cynthia D. Bertelsen wrote in the National Catholic Reporter, "that, ‘in the end, the existence of God is the only true problem, in which all other problems are subsumed and minimized. At times, I think that we are always talking about God without realizing it.’" "Monda's emphasis is on how every choice—existential, artistic, political—has its origin in the answer to ‘the great question’ that he asked all those with whom he spoke: Does he or she believe in the existence of God," Joseph continued. An individual's adherence to this belief, Monda asserts, is universally expressed in their work. "The aurea mediocritas of religious orthodoxy is what binds believers to their faith: ‘the fundamental genetic makeup of the believer includes not only the choice of the golden mean but its celebration.’"

In general, critics celebrated Monda's efforts in Do You Believe? "Many works wrestle with the question Monda poses here," declared Leroy Hommerding in Library Journal, "but few manage it with such grace and undeniable power." June Sawyers, reviewing the book for Booklist, called the work "provocative and entertaining." "Overall," wrote a reviewer writing for Publishers Weekly, "this is a thoughtful, provocative and concise volume." "Deeply moving," Commonweal contributor Lawrence Joseph concluded, "Do You Believe? is a truly compelling book, bound to become a classic."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 2007, June Sawyers, review of Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion, p. 20.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 2004, T. Lindvall, review of The Hidden God: Film and Faith, p. 108.

Cineaste, fall, 2004, Brian Frye, review of The Hidden God.

Commonweal, January 31, 2008, Lawrence Joseph, "Impressions of Eternity," p. 19.

Film Comment, November 1, 2003, Chris Chang, review of The Hidden God, p. 76.

Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, fall, 2006, Gordon Matties, review of The Hidden God.

Library Journal, October 15, 2007, Leroy Hommerding, review of Do You Believe?, p. 72.

National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008, Cynthia D. Bertelsen, "How Artists and Intellectuals View God," p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of Do You Believe?, p. 79.

ONLINE

BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (May 7, 2008), Jessica Weaver, review of Do You Believe?

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (May 7, 2008), author profile.

Paste Magazine,http://www.pastemagazine.com/ (May 7, 2008), review of Do You Believe?

Tisch School of the Arts, New York University Web site,http://www.filmtv.tisch.nyu.edu/ (May 7, 2008), author profile.