Aoife Kelleher comes from Ireland. She completed her bachelor in Communications, Film & Broadcasting with a specialization in French at the Dublin Institute of Technology. She continued her higher education with a multi-disciplinary master in Women’s Studies focusing on History, English Literature, Philosophy, Sociology and Development Studies. Aiofe has a rich variety of experience in the film industry and television starting from assistant film producer to director. Her first series following the lives of a group of LGBT young people on RTÉ were awarded the Event of the Year at the 2010 GALA Awards and were voted Best Television Series in the 2010 Entertainment.ie Awards. She directed the short documentary ‘Home’ (2012), which became the Winner of Best Documentary at Fastnet Short Film Festival 2014 and was screened at the Cork Film Festival, the Dublin International Film Festival, Arizona International Film Festival and Boston Independent Film Festival. She has just directed her first feature documentary, 'One Million Dubliners', which will screen in Irish cinemas this year and recently won Best Feature Documentary at the prestigious Galway Film Fleadh.
Lina Luzyté was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1985. In 2011, she graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre with an MA in Film Directing. She has numerous writing and directing credits in advertising and film, and has worked as a First Assistant Director as well as a Casting Director on a variety of projects both in Lithuania and abroad. Recently Lina became a lecturer at the Skalvija Film Academy. She wrote and directed ‘It Would Be Splendid, Yet’ (2009), a short film about a Lithuanian woman, seeking her new identity after the country regained its independence. The film has been selected for over 15 international festivals and has won several awards. In 2010 Lina shot a documentary about the locals of a provincial town in Byelorussia, who survive by selling soft toys to the passengers of passing trains, whilst constantly being chased by the militia. Currently Lina is editing her first feature film ‘Do You Love Me’.
“Monika” is a feature drama, based on a real-life case in Norway, in which a young girl was found dead, with a leather belt wrapped tightly around her neck, amid signs of a break-in. The initial investigation into the girl’s death concluded that she had probably committed suicide. The idea that a State would believe that, on the balance of probability, a child – and, in this case, an immigrant child - was most likely to have killed herself, is as horrifying as it is compelling. Furthermore, it later transpired that the State had been incorrect in its findings and that, in fact, the girl had been murdered. We felt that the fact that the State had initially deemed the death a suicide was also very revealing of Norwegian attitudes towards Lithuanian immigrants and wondered whether the same story could happen in Ireland.
The film is first and foremost, a thriller. It begins with the discovery of the body of a young girl, Monika, in a coastal area in the West of Ireland. Through the eyes of an investigating detective from Dublin, who is brought in to assist the local guards, we learn about Monika, the eight-year-old daughter of a fisherman and a factory worker; her Lithuanian immigrant family and the town in which they live.
The investigation hinges on a critical two-hour period, during which Monika’s murder took place. We learn that neither of Monika’s parents was where they initially claimed to have been at this time and, when their lies are discovered, we discover some disturbing truths about their lives. As suspicion falls first on Monika’s mother and then on Monika’s father, the point-of-view of the film moves too, and we experience the world through the eyes of, first her mother and then her father. We learn more about these two people and their lives as immigrants in Ireland: the ambitious woman, who wanted more for herself and her five-year-old daughter than Lithuania could offer; the third-generation fisherman who didn’t want to leave. Through the shifting point-of-view and through the use of language – the film will be in English and Lithuanian – both our Irish and Lithuanian characters will be fully rounded and fully actualised. We will get to know the immigrant family as real people and not just symbols or clichés.
As we follow the course of the investigation, we learn about the particulars of this case and its wider story – the story of a family whose lives have been transplanted to a new and unfamiliar environment; the story of the parents, whose differing hopes and ambitions have caused their relationship to disintegrate to a point where each of them begins to suspect the other for the death of their daughter; the story of a police force, whose clouded view of an immigrant community prevents them from doing their job to the best of their ability and the story of an Irish town and the various ways in which the local people relate to a foreign family.
The outcome of the case will be ambiguous for the viewer but we, the writers and directors, will know exactly who killed Monika and will leave clues throughout the film as to the real perpetrator of the murder.
Developed as part of the CPH:LAB initiative, “Monika” is a collaboration between directors Aoife Kelleher (Ireland) and Lina Lužytė (Lithuania). The film aims to explore the most obvious point of contact between Ireland and Lithuania – immigration – by portraying the response of an established community to an immigrant family but also by conveying the experience and perspective of the immigrants themselves.
Emigration is a huge issue in Lithuania. Since 2000, when the borders opened, one quarter of the population has left the country in search of a new life. More than 50% of these emigrants are highly educated but often end up working at low-skilled jobs and struggle to accept their new position in life. We wanted to examine how emigration impacts on those Lithuanians who are now scattered around the world as well as the effect that their arrival has on indigenous communities.