The Thursday Night Tea Research Group Event Report | INTIMACY with Camila Gonzatto

By Anisha Joshi

Class of 2022

What is intimacy, actually? How do you put into words what this multifaceted experience can mean, how do you define it? In the second installment series on intimacy organized by the Thursday Night Tea Research Group, screenwriter and director Camila Gonzatto invited participants to workshop some ideas of how intimacy can be defined. Gonzatto has prolifically written and directed short films, feature films and films for TV, with many of them screened at various film festivals around the world.

The session kicked off with a screening of her award-winning short film Intimidade (2004), where a discussion about whether a toothbrush can be shared yet or not leads a couple to confront some of the problems in their relationship- how intimate are they, really? In a relationship, how far are you willing to go to be intimate? As far as to share a toothbrush?

Gonzatto discussed how the experience revealed the intricacies of capturing intimacy in literary texts—on the level of how the actors perform this intimacy, the director’s intimacy with the camera, “And then there’s of course the story level intimacy with someone—can we use the toothbrush from someone else?”

Camila Gonzatto

“I think that everyone knows what intimacy is—maybe we don’t all have the words to express it, but if you think about it, I’m sure you have a feeling about it.” Whatever our experience with intimacy—whether we are afraid of it, or even if we have not experienced it with many people—Camila believes it is something that is almost intuitive to us. Yet, as Camila pointed out, dictionaries do not do much in the way of helping us put into words what intimacy really is, and it can often be a challenge to put this feeling into words and define what it really means.

So what is intimacy, then? Participants took a stab at attempting to define what this feeling meant to them, and answers ranged from extended eye-contact, physical touch, desire to the idea that the silence shared between two people can be comforting and needn’t be filled. Gonzatto agreed with these definitions and offered some of her own- like when you get to read the notes that someone you do not know very well yet has written in a book, or when you talk about your childhood memories and dreams.

As a part of the workshop, Gonzatto invited participants to go around the campus or from wherever they were calling into the workshop, and shoot a short video or some pictures from everyday life that describe a moment of intimacy. ‘Go around your rooms or houses and find intimacy there- I am sure there are lots!’

Participants at school and zooming in from other places came up with interesting visual representations of intimacy- the quiet comfort of choosing a book at a bookstore, a tarot spread or showing someone your shopping cart on Taobao. ‘A moment of two people close together and sharing something is very intimate,’ Gonzatto commented on the importance of perspective and where the viewer is positioned when capturing intimacy visually.

And is it not also intimate to share with someone else what you think intimacy means, where you find intimacy? Ending the workshop Gonzatto proposed collecting these different visual representations participants might find on campus and in their lives to produce a final publication that brings together these various definitions of intimacy, so that might be something to look forward to in the near future!