g The Film Panel Notetaker: "Intimidad" at MoMA - November 14, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Intimidad" at MoMA - November 14, 2008

Intimidad: A Home Movie
Q&A with Directors Ashley Sabin & David Redmon, Carnivalesque Films
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
New York, NY
November 14, 2008

Intimidad is a love story about Cecy, Camilo and their little girl Loida, a family in Mexico who are slowly earning money from their low-wage factory jobs to afford a parcel of land to build a home on, shot and directed by not only Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, but also by Cecy and Camilo, as David noted during the Q&A after the screening of the film at MoMA Friday night, which was playing as part of the “Contenders” series, as noted by MoMA Film assistant curator Sally Berger during the introduction. Much like Redmon’s and Sabin’s earlier film Kamp Katrina, I felt like a fly on the wall spying on this family. I was so invested in their lives, their circumstances, their love, their pain, their laughter, all of the emotions, that when the film ended, I didn’t want it to end. Also in attendance at the screening were the film’s composer Eric Taxier as well as Kamp Katrina editor Tim Messler. If you missed this screening of Intimidad, I strongly encourage you to go to the encore at MoMA this Wednesday at 8:00pm.

Berger introduced Redmon and Sabin saying that they have received a lot of recognition for compiling these stories in the documentary format, which is much like storytelling where they pick up a character in one film and carry them on in the next film. Redmon explained a little more about this technique in Intimidad saying that film took about five years to make and called it a piecemeal film that reflects the aesthetic existence of the landscape as well as the people in the film, adding that it’s a slow and gentle film, without any condescending or disparaging remarks. “We very much embrace it,” he said.

Here are some highlights of the Q&A with the audience after the film.

Q: Were Cecy and Camilo squatters or did they legally own the land?

Sabin: No, they’re not squatters. They legally own that land. We shot different scenes where they go to seek out land to purchase. It’s actually somewhat problematic…because there’s a lot of companies that open up that say, ‘I have this land, purchase it, make a down payment,’ and then they’ll just disappear after you make your down payment, so you have to be careful who you give your money to.

Q: Some of the scenes were very intimate. Was any of the film scripted or rehearsed?

Sabin: David and I made a distinct choice in the beginning to have this be collaboration. We had a really open dialogue with them with what was going on, what wasn’t going on. They never once said to us, ‘don’t film something.’ In fact they encouraged us…I felt really uncomfortable filming Cecy for the first time when she’s seeing her daughter because I was just expecting this grand reunion, and at one point she actually fingers us over to film. As far as scripted, there’s moments that we missed that (we would ask) ‘can you guys have a conversation about this?’ They would actually get in a really heated discussion about something and we would film it…It is an interesting question as far as a documentary. What is truth and what is not?

Redmon: On the DVD, a lot of that is on the extras. For example, we would shoot a scene. It was spontaneous, but then we would show it to them maybe a year later, and they’d say, ‘no, that’s not really what I was thinking. What I’m thinking and what I’m portraying is not really what I was thinking at the time. This is what I was thinking.’

Q: How did you find them?

Sabin: We are always asked that question…David is from Texas, so had an interest previously in us going down to Mexico and we decided to move down there for three months and make a film. They had pallets…stacked outside of their house so we were curious about it so knocked on their door. Cecy opens the door and then we just had an immediate connection and the next day we were there with a camera. Then filming wasn’t something we had off the bat that this was a great idea. It was sort of a natural progression…and also having interests in wanting to be part of the production. They’re very curious.

Redmon: We didn’t find out they had a daughter until we started filming them…and thought we were going to make a 28-minute short film. So we go along and they’re going to reunite and it’s going to be a happy ending…We ended up shooting over the course of five years.

Q: How much of their participation in the film might have influenced the outcome of their lives?

Redmon: After Loida came back, he pretty much knew that he and Cecy wanted to save enough money to buy a house. I don’t know if they were doing that just because they wanted us to finish the film or they would have done that even if no one was filming them.

Sabin: Of course it changed things. At the beginning, they didn’t even have a cell phone. We couldn’t text them, so we would just show up. David and I were really skeptical whether or not they were going to get the house. And I don’t even see the ending as necessarily happy. It’s sort of to be continued. I think as an audience member, you decide whether or not it’s happy because of whatever you’re bringing to the film

Redmon: I wish they were here to respond to it.

Q: Did you two help them at all financially to get where they needed to go?

Sabin: We didn’t help them until the end of the film…What really helped was that Cecy started selling the jewelry.

Redmon: We had the jewelry that sold out at the first screening in Austin. She sells it for $5 and she makes less than $5 a day and every weekend she would sell maybe one every thirty minutes.

Sabin: They were just doing whatever they could.

Cecy also sells these tiny angel figurines that she crafts by hand that Ashley showd to the crowd after the screening.

Q: Have they seen the film in a theater or a festival?

Redmon: We asked Cecy, and she’s never been to a movie theater, but there is a new one that was just built recently…and it played in festivals in Mexico, but they couldn’t go there.

Sabin: And we weren’t able to go either…It’s really difficult for them to come over. The visa process is very difficult. To get them all over here and to go back would take months, so we just haven’t been able to orchestrate the whole ordeal and hire a lawyer.

Q: I’m curious about their first meeting back with their daughter. How much of (Loida’s) shyness was because you were there or it was truly a shyness because she hadn’t seen her parents for the two years?

Sabin: I almost want to leave that up to you…It’s again a difficult question. How much (are we) affecting someone’s life?...She looks at Cecy first. She doesn’t look at us. If you notice the first shot, she looks at Cecy. And then she looks away from Cecy and then she looks at the camera.

Redmon: She’s seven now. We asked her about that shot…She says she remembers that her parents had left for a long time and came back…She remembers the doll. It’s amazing because she always talks about lollipops…That’s one of the first words she learned. It’s really interesting how this carries over throughout her life. At the age of four she said she wanted to be a teacher. We see here today and she still wants to be a teacher. She’s an amazing little girl.

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