A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Director: Dito Montiel
Screenwriters: Dito Montiel

Institute History


A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is based on director Dito Montiel's youth during the mideighties in the tough neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. All his old friends have ended up dead, as junkies, or in prison; Dito is the proverbial man who got out. For him, the "saints" are the folks he remembers, the ones he left behind. For better or worse, they made him who he is today.

Just the way memories can flood consciousness, Montiel uses the same motif to flood the screen with his stories. The past gets layered upon the present, and the film comes to life. The performances are real because the characters' words are real; they've been said before. The strength of the film isn't looking back through a nostalgic, Vaselined lens; instead, Montiel infuses the memories with both the exhilaration and pain of youth.

The outstanding cast members are dedicated to finding every nuance and truth. They capture the frenetic quality of the time, not only in the streets and on the rooftops but also in the bustling family kitchen. Montiel's New York is steamy with humidity, cooking, and adolescent sexuality. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is an honest account of a bittersweet return to a neighborhood that isn't the same and never will be again.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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