Filmmaker and alumna Ali Codina '00 fielded questions from an emotional audience last Thursday after screening her 2009 debut documentary, "Monica and David," in Smith Auditorium.
The film follows the marriage of the title couple, Monica Walters and David Martinez—who both have Down syndrome—and their families' struggles to support them without compromising their independence.
The fact that Monica is Codina's cousin made the story especially personal. Codina described how the connection to her cousin gave her incredible access to her subject—a boon for any documentarian—but something she had to balance without betraying the trust of her family.
Started with only a shoestring budget, "Monica and David" has had widespread success including a premiere at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), a Best Documentary award at New York's prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, a domestic distribution deal with HBO documentaries, and international distribution in over 30 countries.
Before diving into moviemaking, Codina worked extensively in the Miami Film Festival scene, which she believes helped her a great deal in promoting "Monica and David."
At a career planning lunch on Friday, Codina urged students to be bold when marketing their own films to festivals.
"Don't be afraid to make cold calls, whether it's to festival programmers, local media, or anyone who can help promote your film," she explained. "Especially after you've been accepted into a festival you need to get the word out to those who would want to see it."
Accordingly, Codina, created buzz before Tribeca by contacting mental disability groups all around New York.
"All of our screenings at Tribeca were sold out the day tickets went on sale," she said.
Codina also led a workshop later that Friday for students in interested in film.
She had many suggestions for potential filmmakers—documentary or narrative—on the production side.
"Now is the time to start making your base," she said. "If you make films together here at Bowdoin, you'll have that network of people to draw on in the future."
She added, "If you can figure out what specifically you want to do now—writing, editing, cinematography, producing—it's never too early to start learning."