Montiel’s directorial debut | Sunday Observer

Montiel’s directorial debut

30 May, 2021

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a 2006 American drama film based on a 2001 memoir of the same name by author, director, and musician Dito Montiel, which describes his youth in Astoria, New York during the 1980s.

Montiel wrote and directed the film adaptation, which was released in the United States in September and October 2006 and in Europe in March 2007. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Montiel with Shia LaBeouf as a younger Montiel.

The film’s narrative jumps frequently between 2005 and flashbacks from 1986 (filmed largely with shaky camera with short shots) with characters occasionally addressing the viewer.

This film was Montiel’s directorial debut. Initially, Montiel refused to see LaBeouf for the part, having only seen him as the “Disney guy.” When he got to audition for the role, he “turned his office upside down,” putting a “hole through the wall” and went as “crazy” as he could in order to change the image Montiel had of him to land the part.

Characterisation of the film, Montiel states that all the characters in the film are a combination of at least three people and sometimes six or seven, although some characters are given the names of people from real life. Listed below are some of the main differences between four characters and their real-life counterparts.

Answering an interviewer, the director of the film, Montiel said about his decision to select a book to make as his debut film, “I was working in Los Angeles with Jake Pushinsky who had never [edited] a film in his life. He didn’t even know how to use Avid, but he’s got that ridiculous talent that editing needs. It’s like a drummer — I think [you can only] be born a drummer. You can get lessons, but you’re born a drummer.

From prison

“He’s a born editor. We went out with a little video camera — real DV — not Hollywood budget. We’re talking about a low budget. When we came back to New York, I filmed this dirt spot on a train and I said, “Check this out, it looks kinda cool” and we put all these sounds on it and music.

“Actually, the real Antonio, was talking to me from prison and, so we edited his voice into the film. We did it for a minute and then we did one for six minutes. I had sort of known Robert Downey, Jr. which is a nice thing when you’re trying to make a movie. He came in, saw the short and said, “This is great. Let’s do it.” Of course, that comes to a long process of craziness, but, in the end, he stayed there for that day. The cast is stuck by a director that they really didn’t know what he was doing. I had a good feeling and it doesn’t happen all the time. This was just a lucky course of events,” Montiel said.

The film only made $2,035,468 worldwide. It currently holds a 75% “Certified Fresh” rating on ’Rotten Tomatoes’.


Plot summary:

Dito is a successful writer in Los Angeles. One day, after being urged by his mother, Flori, and his friend, Nerf, Dito visits his childhood home, Astoria, New York, because his father has suddenly become very ill. The film switches back and forth between the present and flashbacks with Dito’s memories in the summer of 1986.

Dito meets Nerf, and talks with him in a parked car, where they can talk undisturbed, which would not have been possible at Nerf’s house. Dito then visits Laurie, his childhood sweetheart, who is now a mother. They only talk through the open window; she does not let him in. Dito finally visits his father, Monty. Monty used to ignore Dito’s feelings, and he didn’t want Dito to travel. He is angry at Dito for leaving, and for not returning sooner to visit; he then sends Dito away. Laurie urges him to be a man and come to terms with his father, who was heartbroken when he left. Dito does leave, but returns later, to insist that he take his father to the hospital.


Antonio, an overconfident, volatile boy with an abusive father, eventually kills someone: the Puerto Rican gang member Reaper, as payback for an attack on young Dito.

Viewers are then introduced to Antonio’s younger brother, Giuseppe - reckless, destructive, and possibly insane. Giuseppe lay on a subway track; in spite of urgent warnings from his brother Antonio and Nerf, that a train was coming, he failed to get back on the platform and was killed

Mike O’Shea, another friend of Dito’s, was a Scottish boy who dreamt of becoming a musician. Mike and Dito had planned to go to California on a bus. They worked for a gay drug addict, Frank, with a dog-walking business. They went to his house to collect the wages he was slow in paying. At first he did not listen to them, but then he gave them all the money he kept in the refrigerator, more than he owed them and told them to leave town. Shortly thereafter, Mike was murdered by a member of a Puerto Rican gang in retaliation for the murder of Reaper, after which Dito travelled alone to California.

Present Day:

Dito visits the adult Antonio in prison and sees him as a changed man of wisdom. The film concludes with the two of them sitting down in conversation.