Out of great pain can sometimes come great joy, just ask documentarian Dan Sickles, one of the directors behind the Sundance Grand Jury-prize winning documentary “Dina.”
For Sickles, the intensely personal doc has an added dimension — he and co-director Antonio Santini were completing their first film together, “Mala Mala,” when both of Sickles’ parents passed away. In order for the pair to juggle both the editing of the film and Sickles’ new familial responsibilities, they picked up and moved, along with editor Sofia Subercaseaux, to suburban Philadelphia, the home of the Sickles’ family. That’s where a new story awaited them.
Sickles’ father had been a friend and a mentor to the eponymous Dina since he taught her at the local high school, eventually helping to co-found the Abington Aktion Club, a social/community service organization for developmentally disabled adults, of which Dina is a long-time and dedicated member. Sickles had known Dina his entire life, and was pleased to introduce her to Santini and Subercaseaux. While the group was first intrigued by the idea of doing a doc on the club as a whole, once Dina revealed some big, big news — she was engaged! — the crew knew they had found a new focus.
The result is a romantic comedy pulled from real-life, complete with all sorts of ups and downs and pains and pleasures, the kind you probably couldn’t write. It also utilizes a unique approach to storytelling, told mainly using no recorded interviews and, instead, a series of long, meticulous shoots comprised exclusively of medium and wide shots.
In our review out of Sundance, David Ehrlich wrote: “Alternately comic and tragic and best when its both at once, ‘Dina’ humanizes a world of people who were only dehumanized because we allowed them to be. It’s never easy, and the film suffers greatly when its scenes aren’t supported by the scaffolding of its rom-com structure, but we need films like this. Whereas most docs about ‘different’ people are content to flatter our empathy, ‘Dina’ aims to deepen it.”
Check out our exclusive trailer and poster for “Dina” below.
“Dina” opens in limited release on Friday, October 6.