Documentarian Dan Sickles’ road to his new documentary, the Sundance premiere “Dina,” was a strange one. While he and co-director Antonio Santini were completing their first film together, “Mala Mala,” 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 — plus editor Sofia Subercaseaux — to suburban Philadelphia, the home of the Sickles’ family.
Sickles’ father had been a friend and a mentor to 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.
As the film’s official synopsis explains it: “Dina’s getting married in a few weeks and there’s still so much to do. She has to move her boyfriend, Scott, from his parents’ house to her apartment, and settle him in to only the second home he’s ever had, all while juggling his schedule as an early morning Walmart door greeter. She has to get her dress, confirm arrangements with the venue, and make peace with her family, who remain nervous for their beloved Dina after the death of her first husband and the string of troubled relationships that followed. Throughout it all, in the face of obstacles large and small, Dina remains indomitable. She’s overcome tragedy and found the man she wants and, at age 48, is bent on building the life for herself that she believes she deserves. Dina is unstoppable, a force of nature, and as the star of her own life story, she’s an unconventional movie protagonist the likes of which hasn’t been seen before.”
“Dina” 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 the fall of 2015, Killer Films (which produced “Mala Mala”) came on board the feature. Producer Christine Vachon commented, “It’s rare that a film manages to capture the excitement and anxiety that comes with an impending marriage. That ‘Dina’ manages to do so with such grace is a real testament to Dan and Antonio’s storytelling instincts and emotional sensitivity.” Other new contributors followed, including the addition of editor Subercaseaux, actor Michael Cera (who composed songs for the film) and executive producers Impact Partners.
Check out our exclusive clip from “Dina” below.
“Dina” will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 20, with other screenings to follow.