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.
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.
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.