• Bilbao Festival Zinegoak

    Best Documentary Award
  • FEMCINE, 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

    International Premiere
  • IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

  • Valdivia International Film Festival

English and Spanish with English subtitles

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.


“A thought-provoking and poetic account of the journey of Ivan Ojeda to become Monalisa Ojeda.” – Kat Walsh, Video Librarian

“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 humour 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 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

About the Director
Nicole Costa is a Chilean actress, filmmaker, and producer based in New York with a career spanning more than 15 years. She received her Bachelor in Dramatic Arts from the University of Chile in 1997. She moved to Spain to study Audiovisual Communication at the Complutense University of Madrid in 1998. Her debut as a director for her short film Danger & Alone, co-directed with Mary Monahan in 2018, premiered at the Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC). Her first feature documentary film, The Journey of Monalisa, premiered at the Valdivia International Film Festival in 2019 and was selected by many international film festivals and won several awards.
Notes on Film

“I met Iván in Chile in 1993, when he was studying at the University of Chile’s Department of Drama. I was 17 years old and he made an impression on me from the start, not only because of his talent but also because of his great personality. He always operated disconnected from any expectations, as genuine artists do, and this made me admire him deeply.

When the school year ended, he returned to his hometown, and I didn’t hear anything more about him. In those times without social networks, you could easily lose track of someone. The years passed, and I went to Madrid to study. Then I heard that he had come to live in New York. But it wasn’t until I arrived in New York, 17 years after we parted, that I decided to look for him, meeting — to my surprise — with Iván, and also with Monalisa.

This discovery aroused my curiosity immediately. I wanted to understand why someone as bright as him decided to leave such a promising future in his own country, to come and live in the shadow of marginalization, undocumented for so many years, and away from art. Then I started recording our meetings intuitively to understand Iván Monalisa’s decisions. And it was through our meetings that I discovered that in fact my friend never stopped exercising their talent, but instead had focused all their creative genius on building something much more important than any artistic production and that this was their own identity.”

– Nicole Costa, Director.