Juilliard is one of, if not the, best collegiate acting programs in the world. So many of our favorite actors attended the prestigious institution. Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Anthony Mackie and many more have graced the halls and went on to great success. In Creating A Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy, we meet legendary professor of movement, Moni Yakim and his class of 2015, Group 43.
Moni Yakim didn’t plan to become a teacher. A young Israelite who tended towards trouble as a teen, Moni found acting as a welcome distraction for any further bad acts. He had found what he wanted to do with his life. His work with acting quickly turned towards an obsession with mime, which he first encountered through the work of Etienne Decroux. He joined Decroux’ school in Paris. He also attended a class taught by the great Marcel Marceau, where he met his wife and fellow Juilliard professor, Nina. In Paris, he met the legendary acting teacher, Stella Adler, who was responsible for bringing Moni to America. He and Nina worked at a restaurant in the early years to help make ends meet until their theater company started.
“A young Israelite who tended towards trouble as a teen, Moni found acting as a welcome distraction for any further bad acts.”
We start the film with Moni’s current class from their freshman year and follow the progress the students make through the four years of training. There is a special focus on Alex Sharp, who ends up winning a Tony by the end of the film. Creating A Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy is a great story of a life lived devoted to the arts. It all feels incredibly laudatory, however, which doesn’t lend itself to being a great piece of investigative journalism. It’s more of an outpouring of love and dedication to a lifelong artist who touched the lives of so many people around him.
As Kevin Kline says, “Like any great teacher’s legacy, you’re not in the spotlight, you prepared others for the spotlight.” This film is that spotlight for Moni, who has done so many impressive things and truly believes in art for art’s sake. This film is a love letter to a teacher who shaped the futures of so many wonderful actors, and who is an incredible performer in his own right. If anything, it is interesting to learn about a person one may have never known was so integral.
Creating A Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy (2018) Directed by Rauzer Alexander. Starring Alex Sharp, Moni Yakim, Nina Yakim, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Jacobson
7 out of 10 stars