From the heart of Panama comes Maids and Bosses, a film about the realities faced by domestic workers hired by wealthy families.
While it may seem like just another documentary about workers dishing dirt about their richer superiors, director Abner Benaim follows a wide range of passionate characters from nannies, maids, bosses and their children who share their experiences of how their work affects each other on a professional, social and personal level.
Originally set to do a documentary about his own family, Benaim said he was inspired to make a film about domestic workers after speaking to one of his family’s long-time maids.
Seeing the relationship the maids had with his family built around mutual respect and dignity, Benaim wanted to see how other maids felt about their bosses.
After getting to know his maids on a more personal level, Benaim said he discovered how close they felt to everyone in his family.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation to face when I found out how involved they were with us and how not involved we were in their lives,” he said.
Benaim started researching the topic more in-depth by exploring the personal lives of domestic workers outside of the homes as they experienced life with family, friends and lovers.
While Maids and Bosses could have easily taken a serious tone due to its subject matter, Benaim is able to add in snippets of humour and light-hearted moments of his subjects’ lives through raw footage of them at the club dancing and at the park with their bosses’ children.
Benaim is able to explore the lives of domestic workers on a more intimate level, touching on themes ranging from money, sexual abuse, living far away from home, loneliness, and even a possible case of black magic.
Although many parts of the film are personal, Benaim never directly injects himself into the movie, rather, the audience members are able to decide for themselves what they think of the subject.
Bringing to light issues surrounding class, mutual respect, dignity, and loneliness, Maids and Bosses is a detailed and gripping piece that captures the hardships domestic workers deal with on a daily basis.