The Journey of Monalisa

(The Journey of Monalisa)
Nicole Costa | Documentary

2019 | 93 minutes | Chile, United States

Chilean-born performer and writer Iván Monalisa fully embraces his / her dual selves: scrappy, masculine Iván as well as diva, transvestite sex-worker Monalisa.


Chilean-born performer and writer Iván Monalisa fully embraces his / her dual selves: scrappy, masculine Iván as well as diva, transvestite sex-worker Monalisa. A reunion with filmmaker Nicole Costa, Iván’s former college classmate, provides the opportunity for a journey through this undocumented transgender immigrant’s daily life of sex, drugs, and poetry—as well as a quest for US legalization. Pragmatic and humorous, Iván Monalisa navigates the gritty underbelly of New York City with charisma and charm.

Nicole Costa intersperses recent scenes of Monalisa’s attempts to get a visa and their first successes as a writer with old VHS footage, snippets of telephone conversations, and extracts from their work: beautiful, raw pieces about life and survival in New York.


"Iván Monalisa has the talent to endow his characters with vitality and grace, he tells you about their misery as something inevitable, with humor and without turning them into victims. They are stories about survival in the face of Trump's migration policies, with characters who skirt all urban dangers with humor and a lot of solidarity amongst them. They share drugs, pimps, beauty awards, syndromes and delirium, but they are a very close-knit community." — Pedro Almodovar, About Monalisa’s latest book Las Biuty Queens

"Both intimate and gloriously poetic." — New York Women in Film and Television

"The Journey of Monalisa, like its protagonist, transforms scene by scene, experiments with a variety of supports and techniques, escapes the genre's own bonds. It is the continuity of Monalisa's same gesture of freedom. It is a collective struggle: the right to transform, to exercise an identity free from bonds in both life and cinema and poetry." —  Caligari, Revista de Cine

"Offers another side of the Chilean trans experience. [...] Monalisa's story will be quite foreign to the average filmgoer, and it's one that urgently deserves to be heard." — Jude Dry, IndieWire

"It effectively describes the inequalities hidden in the New York social structure and the identity discourse of minorities and their survival in the face of brutal violence in the cradle of savage capitalism." — Rodrigo Miranda, El Desconcierto

"Here, subject and artist, and a subject who is an artist, jointly trace a path free of concealment that arouses curiosity, like the infinite braid that Ivan drags through the everyday landscapes of New York life." — Alex Vázquez, La Pistola de Chéjov

"It's a one-of-a-kind film that mixes Monalisa's life and words with movie magic to create an absolute special cinema experience." — Unseen Films

Main credits

Costa, Nicole (film director)
Costa, Nicole (screenwriter)
Camino, Daniela (film producer)
Camino, Daniela (screenwriter)
Miranda, Melisa (screenwriter)
Ojeda, Iván Monalisa (on-screen participant)

Other credits

Cinematographer, Nicole Costa [and 7 others]; editor, Melisa Miranda; music, Kato Hideki.

LGBTQ+, undocumented, transgender, sex-worker, poetry, New York, immigration, Latinx, undocumented, performance, spanish, spanish language, latin america, latin american cinema, latin american film, ibero america, latin, latinx, latino, latina,,migration studies, migrant studies, immigration studies, refugee studies, diaspora studies, resettlement studies, settlement studies, migration, migrant, immigration, refugee, diaspora, resettlement, settlement, refugees, international migration, continental migration, resettling, settlers, settler, migrant, migrant studies, first generation immigrant, first generation immigration, new americans, new spaniards,gender, sexuality, gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender equality, gender pronouns, gender studies, gender spectrum, gender norms, gender roles, gender stereotypes, sexual selection, sexualization, sexual awakening, puberty, pubescence,latinx, latin american, latino, latina, latin american people, hispanic, hispanic people, hispanic people, chicano, chicana, latine, latinx heritage, afro-latinx,literature, poetry, writing, fiction, books, adaptations, writing, writers, authors, authorship, novels, novellas, short fiction, memoir, biography, autobiography, literati, books, written word, book adaptations, poetry adaptations, english literature, spanish literature, books in translation, books adapted to film, cinematic adaptation, cinema rights, film rights, literary adaptation, literary imagery, literary motif,activism, activist, digital activism, advocacy, advocate, involvement, militancy, militant, logrolling, striking, boycotting, championing, champion, effecting change, engagement, supporter, protest, protester, demonstrator, organizing, labor organizing, revolution, revolutionary, community organizing, effecting change, striking, labor strike, labor organizing,biography, autobiography, biopic, memoir, life history, bio, biographer, biographical, personal account, personal history, diary, personal narrative, sketch, profile, personal letters, letters, journal, personal record,north america, america, us, usa, united states, united states of america, us mexico and canada, map of north america, north american countries, states of north america, provinces of north america, countries of north america, continental america,sociology, anthropology, psychology, sociological, sociological perspectives, conflict theory, human conflicts, sociological thinking,conflict perspective, topics in sociology, sociology topics, sociology studies, social studies, people and cultures, human relations, human relationships, cultural studies, culture studies ,dance, performing arts, dramatics, music, musical theatre, musical theater, entertainment, performance, performer, performers, dancer, dancers, dancing, musical, pageantry, scenes, live performance, recorded performance, choreography, movement, choreographer,culture, identity, identity politics, culture wars, left wing, right wing, intersectionality, identity groups, civilization, literacy, humanism, cancel culture, online culture, cultural revolution, cultural diffusion, culture shock, popular culture, pop culture, material culture, cultural capital, cultural assimilation ; "The Journey of Monalisa"; Pragda; gay; lesbian; LGBTQ; transgender; Chile; activist; writer; performance art; immigrant; immigration; New York; United States; ,doc,art,bio
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Bilbao Festival Zinegoak - Best Documentary Award
Women Film Festival - Special Jury Prize
RED Encounter of Chile's Film Festivals - Márgenes Award
DocsValparaíso - National Film Award, Best Feature Film
Cinema Tropical Awards - Best U.S. Latinx
LesGaiCineMad - Best Documentary Film

DIRECTOR: Nicole Costa

NATIONALITY: Chile, United States

YEAR: 2019

GENRE: Documentary


COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: College, Adults



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