Reviews

David Redmon & Ashley Sabin

USA, 2008

Credits

Review by Victoria Large

Posted on 05 May 2008

Source 35mm print

Categories The 2008 Independent Film Festival of Boston

Documentary filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin began production on Intimidad with a particular idea of what it would be, and ended up with a different film entirely. They meant to expose the exploitive business practices of the Rey Mex factory in the Mexican border town of Reynosa, where women earn roughly eighteen cents for every Victoria’s Secret brassiere that they sew and aren’t allowed to speak to their coworkers. But the family that they found in Reynosa and ultimately worked with for five years had a different story to tell, one of quiet resilience rather than victimization.

We’re introduced to Cecy, a young mother living in Reynosa and working at Rey Mex, when the film begins, and her husband Camilo, also employed in a factory that manufactures products for American consumption. They are working constantly and saving any money that they can in order to buy a modest piece of land and make a home for themselves and their young daughter, Loida. In the meantime, Loida is placed in the care of Cecy’s family in Santa Maria, Puebla, where she is spared some of the harshest realities of Camilo and Cecy’s daily existence, but also where her parents can rarely afford to visit. The film follows the family through reunions and separations, small triumphs and not-so-small setbacks. This narrative is focused and very personal (the title appropriately translates to “Intimacy”). Yet while it may appear to eschew global-scale muck racking in favor of a simpler tale, the piece pointedly retains its social conscience.

Redmon and Sabin are under no illusions that the systems in place – those creating situations like that of Camilo, Cecy, and Loida – are anything but grossly and deeply flawed. But that does not prevent them from recognizing and celebrating the family for the tough, loving, and mature people that they emerge as throughout the picture. Camilo and Cecy are not simply prey to the corporate machine, suffering stoically at the hands of wealthier individuals and nations; they are people dealing with poverty in a matter-of-fact way, striving to live the best lives that they can and refusing to allow themselves to be destroyed. Thus, it is inspiring when Cecy quits Rey Mex to do business on her own terms, selling her homemade jewelry outside of the factory where she used to spend the bulk of her time. There is no single solution for Cecy and Camilo’s problems, but they are always searching for the next steps toward improvement.

Yet as serious-minded as Intimidad and its subjects are, it is a warm film and quite entertaining. One of its great joys is in seeing Loida grow from a quiet, wide-eyed toddler to an energetic, intelligent, and charmingly articulate little girl eagerly awaiting her first day of kindergarten. There are also moments of striking beauty that contrast with the grainy, disturbing factory footage or the devastating images of the flooding that is common in Reynosa. Long after the film ended I found myself coming back to some of these delicate, spellbinding moments: Loida taking handfuls of cut flowers and replanting them in the mud; the family gathering outside to make shadow puppets on their hard-won walls. Redmon and Sabin provided Camilo and Cecy with their own cameras, and surely some of the most memorable footage is the subjects’ own. The technique of allowing the subjects to help author their own story feels appropriate to Intimidad, not only because it allows for the intimacy of the title, but also because it reflects one of the most striking things about the film: that it is about those who take action and are not merely acted upon.

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