Montana - Interview with Mo Ali

It all started with him standing on his balcony as a kid in East London, looking down at the streets where he spent most of his childhood.  

“As a young boy I used to live in a difficult neighbourhood in a housing estate right next to Canary Wharf towers. Looking out of my balcony, I could see all the businessmen through their office windows making millions in comparison to the drug dealers and robbers on the streets below. I used to wonder if someone would be a hero and end all of this crime and violence. That thought stuck with me and developed into an idea.” 

 (Left; Mo Ali and  McKell David who plays Montana)

That young boy was Mo Ali, a passionate boy who decided to team up with a close friend and started writing a script. Mo Ali is a young Somali director who began his movie career in 2010 and made his directorial debut in the drama film Shank. Now he is back with his upcoming action/ drama movie, Montana.

Montanais about a young boy who is trained to be an assassin in order to seek revenge against drug dealers and criminals in his local area. The movie stars two well known British actors, Adam Deacon and Ashley Walters. Its coming out on the 11th of December.

Being a director is something Mo loves to do; You could come up with an idea from a blank page and it all transcribes into something on camera. I love that.

Mo gave us a glimpse of his favorite scene in the movie: One of my favorite scenes is when Montana stands against a wall and his teacher, Dimitrie, shoots bullets around his head. The idea is that he has to face his fears. He needs to become an assassin so hes trained to get used to the bullets flying around him. Montana then starts to flinch and you see a father and son bond happening. Its an emotional scene and we captured it beautifully with the use of powerful music. That scene itself took us 5 hours to shoot and get it right. Once we have completed the scene and watched the results, I had goosebumps.

Montana has a lot of meaning to Mo; he describes how this movie links to his Somali roots. The deep underlining messages within the film is a lot like our Somali culture and what we believe in such as mentorship, loyalty, honouring and respecting the family; that unbroken Somali bond.

Mo shared with us his pre-shoot rituals. I wake up at approximately 4am to get ready before a car picks me up at 5am. During that hour; I drink my coffee, do some exercising to get my blood pumping and then I prep. I put on my big filming coat and always have my essentials in specific places in my pockets. My pack of cigarettes, my view-finder which has a list of all my camera shots and all my notes for the shoot.

 (Mo Ali directing on the Montana set)

Of course we also asked Mo to give advice to all the Elmimag readers who are budding film makers: Best advice that I would give in all honesty is to be persistent, punctual, hard working and really professional. Being a film-maker is not just about being creative, you have to be a businessman as well. You have to understand the contracts and the law. Go and learn the business side of film-making. They call it show business because its not just about the show, its about the business too.

Inspired by our Elmimag Letter To Your Younger Selfseries, we asked Mo; If you had the chance, what he would be the one advice you asked your younger self: Stop focusing on girls and read more books, he laughed.

Watch the Montanatrailer if you havent seen it already!

Montana is out on the tomorrow so go and watch it and support Mo Ali!


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