Monsters and Men, out Sept. 28, tells the powerful story of a Manny, who posts a video online of police killing an innocent black man. But once the police find out, Manny is treated as a suspect, interrogated by the cops for his actions. The film tackles events that ring true, given the numerous real cases of racially motivated police brutality, but Monsters and Men isn’t a true story. It is, however, influenced by Eric Garner’s death.
In an interview with Remezcla, writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green explained that after making his short film about police brutality titled Stop, featuring his friend Brian Pollock, who is a white New York City police officer (he also appears in Monsters and Men), they began discussing the Eric Garner case. “We just started talking about that tape, kind of causally, and we just saw two different things on the tape,” explained the director. “I saw a guy who should be alive, point blank. Simple. He saw it a little differently. Although he thought it was unfortunate the guy was dead, he saw somebody who was resisting arrest. It wasn’t out of animosity or anger, that’s just literally the way he saw the tape.”
Hearing Pollock speak this way about Eric Garner’s death showed Green that there are people who do have that point of view, disregarding the effects of racial profiling, no matter how prevalent the issue is. But it was particularly impactful for Green to hear it from someone who is a police officer. “That conversation was like, ‘OK, that was a perspective I hadn’t heard that close before. I know people feel that way, but I didn’t know that he felt that way. I didn’t know that. Wow, this is closer than I thought,’” said the filmmaker.
In the film, Green also explores racial dynamics between people of color, looking into the relationship of Latinxs and African-Americans. This was influenced by the director's own experiences as someone who is half-Latino and half-African-American. In the aforementioned interview, he explained how his experience as an Afro-Latino influenced certain aspects of the story. “We are all the same, we’re from the same blood, we all can find similarities with one another, and look at each other and support one another,” Green pointed out. “To me, I was just bringing my own personal connection to that into the film. I grew up in a household where I had both, so I was able to tap into both cultures in a way that maybe someone else couldn’t.”
Monsters and Men stars Anthony Ramos as protagonist Manny, who Green told Remezcla also has a personal connection to the story. “If you grow up in the projects, you know what it’s like to grow up in a police state,” said the writer-director. “You know who’s a police officer, you know who’s on the corner, and you just see the same faces over and over again. They just drive through the projects. That’s just what they do. It’s just part of growing up in a place where there’s a heavy police presence.”
The film makes viewers confront the power and privilege that many police officers take advantage of to cause harm to people of color, and how much those of color suffer through while just trying to survive.