July 31, 2021

Netflix’s ‘Intimacy’: Sex, lies and videos in Bilbao

Itziar Ituño, star of the Netflix series ‘Intimidad’, shoots at the Alhóndiga in Bilbao. / David herranz

‘Intimidad’, Netflix’s most ambitious Spanish series, is filmed for 20 weeks in the capital of Biscay. Itziar Ituño embodies a mayoral politician whose life jumps into the air when a video of her with sexual content ends up on the Internet

Oskar Belategui

What do the former councilor of Los Yébenes have in common
I forget Hormigos, the former president of the community of Madrid
Cristina Cifuentes placeholder image and the mayoral candidate of New York
Anthony Weiner? The three saw how a compromised video that went viral on the internet ended their political career. All three checked
how her public image was shattered when her privacy was exposed on social media, the modern court that judges, condemns and executes without the right to defense. ‘Intimidad’ is precisely the title of the most ambitious Spanish Netflix production of the year, which is being shot these days in Bilbao. Its protagonist, embodied by
Itziar Ituño, the popular Lisbon of ‘La casa de papel’, is a mayoral politician whose life jumps into the air when a video of her with sexual content is leaked to the press.

Along with Ituño, four other leading actresses in a purely female cast: the last Goya winner,
Patricia López Arnáiz, Emma Suárez, Verónica Echegui and Ana Wagener. The two screenwriters are also women:
Laura Sarmiento and Verónica Fernández. ‘Intimacy’ is filmed during a whopping
20 weeks in more than 70 locations in Bizkaia, mostly in Bilbao. Everything is real scenarios, without using a set. The technical team is made up of 140 people and the actors, among which there is a majority presence of Basques, are around a hundred. “There will be eight chapters of just under an hour,” says the creator of the series, Laura Sarmiento, who justifies the deployment of means and time. “It’s what shooting in natural settings with a very careful image has to do. With the level of demand that we have, that time is necessary ». The direction of the chapters is distributed
Jorge Torregrossa, Ben Gutteridge, Marta Font and Koldo Almandoz.

Verónica Echegui, Patricia López Arnáiz, Itziar Ituño, Yune Nogueiras, Ana Wagener and Emma Suárez star in ‘Intimidad’.

For Sarmiento, preserving privacy in the age of social media is a personal choice. Another thing is when someone uses our images without consent and commits a crime. “The truth is that most of us have become almost exhibitionists, we have that way of socializing,” notes the author of series such as ‘Matadero’ and ‘La zona’.
“It seems that a lot of people don’t experience things until they share them. On vacation, it always amazes me that everyone looks for the image instead of stopping to contemplate the landscape. We need to put this on record before others, it is as if we were experimenting in a vicarious way », he reflects. ‘Intimacy’ will demonstrate how our existence can change in a click. “We are on a very fragile tile.
A crack can make the entire theater we have assembled crumble.

Itziar Ituño filming at the Alhóndiga in Bilbao. /

David herranz

The important thing for the scriptwriters is not so much the thriller, who did it, but the consequences of violating privacy. Sarmiento alludes to the ‘Cifuentes case’: “What does someone feel that is exposed in this way?” The drift of the ‘Hormigos case’ was also very particular: the victim reinvented herself as a character in the heart programs. One of the keys to the series was found in the documentary ‘Weiner’ (2016), about the promising member of the Democratic Party, married to Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s right-hand man during her time as Secretary of State, whose political career ended hastily when erotic photos that the politician had posted online came to light.
“We are interested in showing not only the loss of reputation, but also how certain atavisms come to light with the anonymity of the networks”, Sarmiento points out, who was also in ‘Crematorio’, the title that turned Spanish fiction upside down.

Filming of ‘Intimacy’ at the Guggenheim. /

David herranz

That the protagonists of ‘Intimacy’ are women is not gratuitous.
“In a man, a case like this is lived as an anecdote, it hurts a woman more”, assures Laura Sarmiento. “There is a kind of ‘scarlet letter’ that is put on a woman, even when almost all of us apparently have an egalitarian and conscientious discourse of feminism. Furthermore, network users get carried away with the worst. ‘ For the screenwriter, series with female protagonists no longer have the stigma that they only interest women. “It’s easy for a viewer to identify with Kate Winslet in ‘Mare of Easttown,'” he observes. “That feeling of discomfort no longer occurs.
If a few years ago I presented a project for a series starring a woman, it seemed that you had to justify it. You always drew a strong and independent character, forced to do many merits to earn his position as the protagonist. Perhaps now it is no longer necessary for female characters to live a sentimental plot, but the data on inequality in the profession is still clamorous. «They have offered me projects telling me that they lacked the feminine touch, as if I were going to put the pink ribbon. Now that is embarrassing to offer it », the screenwriter congratulates herself.

Itziar Ituño speaks with Mayor Aburto during the filming of the series at the Bilbao City Hall.

‘Intimidad’ will also serve to sell Bilbao in the more than 190 countries where Netflix operates, which has 208 million paying subscribers. The Guggenheim, the Alhóndiga, the Ría… The tour includes the City Hall, where Itziar Ituño spoke with Mayor Aburto, who occupies the position to which she aspires in fiction. Bilbao is one more character in the series, confirms its creator.
“It is a very attractive city, visually it will sell itself”, compliment. «We are interested in seeing fictions that are not set in a neutral environment, in a non-place. Bilbao helps a story like this, with social repercussion of events ». ‘Intimidad’ joins the long list of filming that the Basque Country has been hosting thanks to the boom in platforms. Laura Sarmiento confirms that we are living in a golden age of fiction.
«Before you wanted to please everyone, now you are looking for niches and that makes the stories more authentic. Maybe you are not going to have the 10 million viewers of a series in the 90s on a generalist network, but you are going to be more honest from a creative point of view ».