Making More Than Ends Meet
One family chases the middle class dream in 'Intimidad'
Every day – amid every news cycle, around every table, in every court of immigration and public opinion – we mull the fates of Mexicans who risk their lives by entering the United States in a search for livability. Forget the American dream; they just want the financial nightmare to end. As we consider the millions they add up to every year and what it will mean, it might be difficult for us to imagine those who hang back, the hundreds of thousands among a population of 100 million who start every day determined to find their footing in the flash-flooded arroyo of the Mexican middle class.
But that's exactly what David Redmon and Ashley Sabin do in Intimidad, a documentary about Camilo, Cecy, and their daughter, Loida, which was filmed in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, tantalizingly close to the border. Redmon and Sabin follow the family for more than four years as it struggles to buy land and build a house. And it's Camilo's feet that got Redmon thinking.
"There [are] a couple times when his body language expresses, 'Turn that camera off,' but it's never really said," Redmon says. "[One time] is when he's home alone: I think it's the first time you see him getting ready in the early morning without Cecy. The camera is filming the moon. It pans down, and Camilo's just standing there, and his body language shifts. ... It's almost like he turns his head away from the camera. He's looking awry. Like, 'Damn, am I really gonna do this? Am I really gonna allow him to film?' And then he starts walking to work. And there's sort of that first step, and then one foot after the other. He just keeps on walking. Keeps on walking. And at the end of the film, he's still walking. He's still walking with momentum and strength and persistence."
Camilo is working from 7am to 8pm at a Reynosa manufacturing plant for fire hydrants exported to American street corners. Cecy has left the job that earned her 18 cents per sewn bra at a factory where the employees are "not allowed to talk." She is looking after her ailing father in Santa Maria, Puebla, where Loida has spent most of her life. For a nascent family unit already fragile, it is a stress fracture that threatens to cripple them.
Redmon and Sabin met Camilo and Cecy while visiting Reynosa in 2003. Redmon had been there four years before and was returning with his collaborator and girlfriend to follow a story. As that trail grew cold and the duo abandoned the idea, they came upon a stack of pallets in front of a house. "We knocked on the person's door," Redmon recalls. "It happened to be Cecy and Camilo. ... It was purely coincidence. Thinking we were going to tell a story about trees in the Northeast, what they become and what people in Mexico use the pallets for and what happens to them in the end, we got something else. An entirely different story."
The filmmaking partners – they live in Mansfield, Texas, where Redmon is from, and met in Boston before forming Carnivalesque Films – are especially adept at detecting and cultivating entirely different stories. Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005) strings together the beads of the New Orleans street party all the way to Fuzhou, China, where they're made; 2007's Kamp Katrina gets uncomfortable in a backyard tent city full of misfits.
"For me, it's about the relationship that you build throughout the course," Sabin says. "There's an artistic storytelling side, but then there's the connecting to people and really understanding their certain situation. And not making this overtly political film and using them as a platform to spout off whatever kind of issues we want to talk about. It's about these different people who we meet, what their lives tell."
INTIMIDADDocumentary Feature, Lone Star States, World Premiere
Friday, March 7, 10pm, Alamo South Lamar
Tuesday, March 11, 10:15pm, Austin Convention Center
Thursday, March 13, 9:30pm, Austin Convention Center