DINA – A Review by Cynthia Flores
U.S. documentary grand prize winner at Sundance 2017, Dina, is the story of a colorful, forty-nine-year-old widowed woman named Dina who’s determined to overcome mental disability and past trauma. We meet her as she’s getting ready to be married in a few weeks to Scott Levin, a sweet man that has Asperger Syndrome and works as an early morning Wal-Mart door greeter.
I know that a description like that would normally make you think it would be as boring as watching paint dry and I do have to admit it took me a minute or two to really get into the rhythm of this film. There’s not a lot of explanation of who these people are in the beginning, so you’re just dropped into their world and expected to figure it out. I feel that’s part of the films charm.
The co-directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles bring an empathetic eye towards subjects that are different from the mainstream. In 2015, they did it with their amazing documentary about a group of Puerto Rican trans women in Mala Mala. In Dina, they treat people with mental disabilities the way a Hollywood reality series might treat a traditional couple. They cover all the kind of issues and pressures that getting married brings up, such as wedding jitters and dealing with all the details. Add to that the special circumstances that their special abilities bring to the mix like moving her boyfriend from his parents’ house to her apartment and getting him settled into only the second home he’s ever known. Dina also makes it clear that she wants and expects sex from her husband. Even though Scott is clearly devoted to Dina, he must be constantly reminded of her needs from holding hands to even remembering not to walk way ahead of her leaving her behind when they are together. So the whole sex issue is really interesting to watch play out.
There is also a strong story line about Dina making peace with her family who remain nervous about this union. They have seen Dina have to deal with the death of her first husband and a string of troubled relationships that followed, including the one that got her stabbed eight times in the back. There’s a chilling scene where we hear the actual police recording of her attacker calling for help after he stabbed her.
*End of spoiler*
Dina is an unstoppable force of nature who has overcome tragedy to find the man she wants and is determined to build the life for herself that she believes she deserves. This documentary is not for everyone, if you are used to snappy soundtracks and flashy famous subjects then stay away. If, however, you enjoy films that let you explore other people's realities, then don’t miss this one.
I was torn what to rate Dina because it deals with such a sweetly odd subject matter, but is not fast moving. It’s better than a C=Ok Movie but not a solid B=Good Movie on our rating scale, so I will split the difference and give it a B- rating for the sheer tenderness and respect that the filmmakers showed to this underserved community.
Selig Rating B-
Running Time 103min
Limited Release Angelika
Starring: Dina Buno, Scott Levin
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.