The film, which opened April 17, follows a toque macaque named Maya and her son, Kip, as they struggle to survive in the ruthless hierarchy of their community.
Since monkeys aren’t actors, extreme patience was required to capture the film’s key moments. “People ask, ‘Why do you spend so long making these films,’ ” says director Mark Linfield. “The answer is, if you’re there for a long time, stuff happens.”
Linfield studied 30 monkey groups in Sri Lanka before settling on Maya and her clan. “Maya lived in a group that had interesting characteristics and was very cinematic,” he says. “We just followed her.”
The hardest scene to film was when the monkeys go to town to steal food. “They’re furtive and cautious,” says Linfield. But the filmmakers knew the simians’ route, so they set up cameras to catch the intruders on their mission.
The footage took eight months to cut into a story. In the final film, we’re treated to the tale of a low-ranking monkey who moves up the ladder thanks to her own skill, some luck and help from a “hunky hubby,” as narrator Tina Fey puts it.