Alexandra Codina ’00 began her documentary project, Monica & David, in March 2005. Three years of filming and editing will produce a finished film of barely more than an hour. For Alexandra and her team, the spirit of Monica & David makes that time and energy well spent.
The film follows the marriage of Monica (Alexandra’s cousin) and David, two adults with Down syndrome. The opening scene shows the happy couple on their wedding day, a moment that was partially responsible for Alexandra’s decision to make the film. “Very few people seemed to understand the level of their commitment,” she says. “They thought it was cute, sweet, an adolescent gesture.” Through her filming, Alexandra hopes to show the realities of everyday life for Monica and David and the “constant ebb and flow” of their emotions. “They dream adult dreams but are [like] children at the same time,” she says. “People don’t know how to react to them asking for independence.” The idea of handicapped adults having a romantic life is often difficult for those who have never met someone with a disability. For her part, Alexandra hopes to show viewers an “artful and entertaining story” that simultaneously breaks down stereotypes.
In April, the Tribeca Film Festival selected Monica & David from a field of over three hundred entries to participate in its All Access Program, which gives filmmakers a chance to pitch their ideas to some of the industry’s top producers, distributors, and agents. “It gives you a push and gives the project credibility,” says Alexandra. Several months later, her team entered into a verbal contract with HBO, whereby the network gets a “first look” at the finished product. This kind of endorsement is coveted in the world of documentary filmmaking, which Alexandra admits is “not a money industry.” Most independent filmmakers rely on fundraising and grants to support their projects.
Part of Alexandra’s good fortune stems from the connections she made through her freelance work on film sets in New York and a five-year stint as a programmer at the Miami Film Festival. During her Bowdoin years, Alexandra “didn’t study film at all. I was always drawn to the arts, but hadn’t identified myself as an artist,” she says. In her spare time, Alexandra “saw a lot of films” and was taken with documentaries because “they’re not just about the story but also about social impact.” She was struck in particular by King Gimp, a film that follows the life of an artist with cerebral palsy. “He was brilliant, but no one really knew it,” Alexandra says of the artist, who is now a well-known activist and mentor for young people struggling with the disease.
Although her main concentration is the completion of Monica & David, Alexandra has recently started a second film featuring a 96-year-old corn farmer in rural Connecticut.
Originally published in Vol. 79, No. 2, Winter 2008 Bowdoin Magazine.
Posted February 01, 2008