Kris Rothstein's Blog

VIFF 2017: Dina

Kris Rothstein

Dina is an extremely intimate portrait of life. This documentary (made by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini) is really the story of Dina and Scott, an engaged couple on the American east coast, as their wedding approaches. What makes their relationship story different is that they both live with disabilities.

In some ways Dina seems more able to function and to 'pass' in the regular world. She has her own apartment, has been married before and, while anxious, is fairly social adept. Scott has always lived with his parents, is a bit more obviously awkward and sometimes seems as if he doesn't totally comprehend interactions. However, his constant affirmations and nods during conversations are not just an attempt to make it look like he understands. His comments, when he makes them, are always insightful. And, in fact, Scott is the one with a job and is obviously incredibly intelligent. Dina lives on disability, even though it's not clear what it is that specifically stops her from being able to work.

They are a loving couple but a theme that develops in their relationship is their varying comfort levels with physical affection. Dina is disappointed by the lack of passion, something Scott just doesn't know how to approach. He is afraid of his own inexperience and doesn't want to do the wrong thing or hurt Dina. Most of the tension originates here or in situations where Scott finds himself outside his routine and comfort zone. This is the kind of topic that most couples find difficult to discuss, and certainly wouldn't do in front of a camera. It is heart-breaking and liberating to see so far into the nitty gritty of their coupledom.

This documentary really elicits compassion, even if you already thought you were tolerant and open-minded towards all kinds of people. It is also a reminder that every person is different and every 'disability' is unique. The friends and family of the couple truly come in all physical and mental shapes, sizes and packages. When I say that this is maybe the least glamorous film I've seen, it is not a criticism. It is actually intensely charming to see people who are not dressing up for the camera or playing to the audience. This is life about as unmediated as I can imagine, and treated with immense respect.

The trailer is here. Dina was a Sundance Grand Jury prize winner in 2017.



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