From surface appearances, Intimidad is an exceedingly modest affair. Filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, who also made the well-received Kamp Katrina, followed a young married couple for four years as they diligently worked to save up enough money to make a down payment on a piece of land they could call their own. If they lived in the United States, Camilo and Cecy might be described as living the American dream. Their story is more universal, however; like people everywhere, they simply want to provide for themselves while maintaining their personal dignity.
Camilo and Cecy are both 21 years of age and have an infant daughter named Loida. They are living in Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Reynosa is primarily a factory town with a population of half a million people, and both Camilo and Cecy are gainfully employed. Camilo works assembling fire hydrants for Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls, while Cecy makes bras for Victoria's Secret. (She gets paid about 18 cents per bra.) Together, they bring in about $500 per month, but expenses eat up most of that, leaving only $15 that they can put aside for their future home. It's not like they're splurging on anything -- they don't even have electricity, spending their evenings and early mornings illuminated only by the dim flames of candles.
Camilo and Cecy face two major dilemmas. The first is that they are living far apart from their daughter because they are both working long hours and Cecy's other family members are 18 hours away (by bus). They have made this sacrifice only because they want to have a proper home for their family. The second big problem is that at their current rate of savings, it will take them 40 years to save up enough money to buy their long-cherished property.
Clearly their dream is impossible to achieve, yet they soldier onward, showering by candlelight, working all day, talking softly at night. Camilo works overtime to make extra money, and Cecy looks for a second job every weekend. They live together, but they barely spend any time together. And Cecy desperately misses her daughter. Her family doesn't even let her speak to the child on the telephone, for fear that it will upset the girl further.
It's a desperate, hand to mouth existence, and the couple looks increasingly anxious and trapped. Camilo and Cecy put on a brave front, always ready to smile, even as they seem to be fighting back tears. Have they simply resigned themselves to their fate?
Things come to a head when they visit Loida for the Christmas holidays. After a separation of one year, the shy, quiet little girl doesn't recognize her parents. Cecy talks about how much she loves her home town of Santa Maria, a tiny village in the state of Puebla, east of Mexico City. Her father is not well. She can't stand to again separate from her daughter. She wants to stay in Santa Maria, but Camilo resists. He reminds her of their limited prospects in the little town. Where will he find work when there are no jobs to be had?
Cecy knows that towns like Santa Maria have bleak prospects for the future. Their sons and daughters have left in search of work, most never to return, leaving behind only the older ones, who will slowly die off. Still, it's her home, and her family, and, especially, her daughter, and she can't bear to leave. Camilo and Cecy face a crisis point, and the way in which they resolve it will affect the rest of their lives.
It would be easy, and justified, for the film to point its finger explicitly at the American corporations that pay such minimal wages, or at the political and government failures that cause so many people to live in such poverty. But, really, those things are self-evident. Camilo and Cecy calmly and deliberately live their lives, not wasting time or energy on blaming others, and neither does the film.
Much sentiment is expressed and tears are shed, but Intimidad never feels forced, melodramatic, or staged. Co-directors Redmon and Sabin exercise restraint in the presenting the young couple's story while also making it cinematic, in part by including b-camera footage shot in 16mm that adds a more poetic touch to the ordinary lives caught on video.
Rather than being resigned to fate, Camilo and Cecy are determined to keep moving forward, to do everything within their power to achieve their dreams, no matter how limited they may appear to others. Their contentment with a very modest standard of living is a stark rejoinder to Western consumer culture, which prizes acquisition of material goods above all else, no matter the actual need. Camilo, Cecy, and Loida have food, clothing, shelter -- and each other, which is all anyone could ask for.
The film had its world premiere at SXSW last week, and will be playing at other festivals in the coming months. Check the official site for details.