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‘Monica & David’ Explores Marriage With Down Syndrome

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When Monica and David Martinez got married five years ago, they were not your average bride and groom — both have Down syndrome. Deeply in love and committed to each other, their union nonetheless put the couple among a minority of people with developmental disabilities walking down the aisle.

Filmmaker Alexandra Codina — who is Monica’s cousin — followed the couple through their wedding and first year of marriage. The resulting documentary “Monica & David” captures the couple as they adjust to life together and struggle to define their own independence.

Ahead of the premiere of “Monica & David” on HBO Oct. 14, Codina spoke with Disability Scoop.

The marriage of David and Monica Martinez is the subject of "Monica & David" premiering on HBO Oct. 14. (Courtesy: HBO)

The marriage of David and Monica Martinez is the subject of "Monica & David" premiering on HBO Oct. 14. (Courtesy: HBO)

Disability Scoop: Why make a movie about Monica and David getting married?

Alexandra Codina: It was a very instinctive, almost emotional reaction a few weeks before Monica and David’s wedding. I realized even though no one was openly objecting to the wedding, there seemed to be this unspoken feeling that they were still children.

Disability Scoop: Why did they want to be married?

Alexandra Codina: As Monica’s cousin I watched her fall in love with a few other men before David and I watched her have her heart broken. When she started dating David, it was a very balanced relationship. They were right for each other. I think they wanted to get married because they were and still are very much in love but they also wanted to share their life together.

Disability Scoop: What do you think marriage means to them?

Alexandra Codina: For them, being married means that very fundamental core idea of having found your match in life and I think that that’s quite profoundly true in this case.

Disability Scoop: The movie is as much about Monica and David as it is about their parents and their fear of letting go. Is that fear reasonable?

Alexandra Codina: When Monica and David were born, both mothers were told to institutionalize their children. To later in life realize that things have evolved and there are opportunities available is very challenging. The solution is not to villainize parents because they need our support just as much as their sons or daughters. They are Monica and David’s biggest supporters and fans. They just don’t believe in the outside world.

"Monica & David" follows the couple from their wedding day through their first year of marriage. (J Miguel/HBO)

"Monica & David" follows the couple from their wedding day through their first year of marriage. (J Miguel/HBO)

Disability Scoop: Why did Monica and David go along with the film?

Alexandra Codina: They are the biggest hams I’ve ever met. They loved the idea from day one. I would feel guilty when I filmed for several days and then wouldn’t be there because I knew that they would miss the camera.

Disability Scoop: Based on Monica and David’s experience, what do you think now about the idea of marriage and people with developmental disabilities?

Alexandra Codina: I do really believe in Monica and David and other people with disabilities having the opportunity to love and find partners and marry and have a sexual life. It’s amazing how many people out there are dying to get married. There is still a lot of resistance from family and caregivers who are worried about marriage. I think Monica and David are a phenomenal example of love and how to have a true partnership and a healthy relationship.

Disability Scoop: What are you hoping that viewers take away from the film?

Alexandra Codina: I would like for people to focus on the humanity and see people with disabilities as people first. I would just like for people to relate and to see themselves in Monica and David.

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Comments (12 Responses)

  1. vmgillen says:

    Should have held the release for Valentines Day… I’ve heard the arguments from state agencies and service providors, sat in on meetings where parents supported sterilization… there is a real reluctance to acknowledge that people are, simply, people. Having said that, I’m waiting for Bert & Barbara’s story to get out: both former Willowbrook ‘residents’, detainees, or whatever… married, now very old, but so very together and a classic example of a long-term couple (think of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Book-ends”). When people get to be that old everything levels out, you know? an on-going Senior Moment…

  2. ponylady says:

    it is so important for age appropriate education to happen, beginning with any age in schools, regarding persons with challenges. This population, across the board, deserves recognition and have the same basic needs in life as those without those challenges. People with physical and mental challenges are not seen as sexual beings — well folks, they are, just like you!!!! Bravo for that wonder documentary about Monica and David and bravo to them for allowing the film to happen for us all to share in their joy! thank you

  3. Unitedmedia says:

    I think this is wonderful and I have every intention that my daughter with Downs will get married some day. Kudos to Monica and David.May you have a wonderful life together.

  4. Technomom says:

    The scene where David comforts Monica, when she’s upset about her biological Dad’s treatment of her, says it all. I thought this really spoke to his maturity and how they are stronger as a couple. They really bring out the best in each other.

  5. nofindme says:

    My brother ,Peter and his wife have been married for nine years now. They both have Downs Syndrome. They celebrate their anniversary every month.I am in awe of what a good husband my brother is and hope that my siblings take note of the kindness they that Peter shows his wife. Many could learn from him the key to a successful marriage! I look forward to viewing Monica and and Davids movie.

  6. califhulamommy says:

    I loved this show! I have dreams for my daughter who has Down’s and this documentary showed me exactly how those dreams can come true. I cried every time he called her sweet names and covered her in kisses. I want my daughter to find a man who will love her like that. I watched it twice and I am already having Monica and David withdrawals! I would love to see more- especially if they do have a baby. This would make a great TV series – I would never miss an episode!

  7. wonderwoo says:

    this sounds like a wonderful documentary – I wonder is it available to see in the UK. I am a firm believer in everyone living the life and following the path they choose and having any kind of disability should not be a barrier to living a normal valued life – I look forward to the day when one of my sons comes home with his girlfriend and says mum we want to get married! – may Monica and David have a very long and happy married live together xx

  8. Tim says:

    How wonderful! I hope they have a long happy life together.

  9. de says:

    It is so very urgent for the “world” to understand these are human beings just like me and you..forget the DS…But the world isn’t understanding this..This documentary and many like it will hopefully turn on a lightbulb for many. I am the proud mom of a gorgeous child with DS and letting go is the hardest part no matter disability or not. I will learn to trust her yet still be there should she need me. Kudos and hurrays to HBO!

  10. Bob Skelley says:

    I applaud Monica and David, I wish them happiness and longevity in their relationship. I also applaud the filmmaker for taking the journey to know this couple. I would like to see the issue explored to the next logical step, parenthood. As an attorney representing a special needs mother trying to have custody of her child, I am appalled at the lack of understanding of special needs held by the court and family relations. From my limited perspective, this is an area of discrimination that goes to the very nature of our society and our willingness to truly allow “equality for all”.

  11. abraham says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!! MAZAL TOV!
    you should be happy the rest of your live .
    this is to show the world that every child with disability reserves a change and they can even get married and find their true love

  12. ivanova smith says:

    I saw this film and I saw some problems with it. I think that the couple need to be respected as a married couple and I don’t think the film showed that will. because there were decisions that were made for the couple that they did not get a say in and I think that sad and problematic. one of them being why are they stick with their parents if they are a married couple? they should get to be independent and have their own privacy that should be expected with a married couple. I understand they need help with something but that should not bar them from being independent of their parents. also the parents not allowing them to have children. that is really sad because it seemed that the couple wanted children. and that should be their choice to make not the parents of the couple. I think the parents need to have more faith in their adult children abilities. and respect them as able adult married couple. I think if the couple did not have their disability that would get to have more rights then they get and that discriminatory. I am saying this as person with a developmental disability and who is married I would hate it if my parents treated me or my husband like the how Monica and David are treated. I would not want to live in my parents house and not get a say in if I can have kids are not. I understand the parents are trying to be protective and supportive but they need to understand that if right for their married children to fly out of the nest. because it bring more empowerment to Monica and David and that is what they deserve! because it clear that they want to support each other and have the same rights and privileges of any other married couple abled-bodied or not.

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