My second official film of SIFF tonight was Dina. And oh, was it beautiful.
It can be hard to know how to react to films that tell a story far from my experience. In writing about Dina, I fully acknowledge my ignorance about autism and true disability. This is my attempt to glean something important from this documentary and to learn from the people at its heart.
Dina is a gentle, pastel, very-real documentary chronicling the engagement, wedding, and honeymoon of a woman – Dina – with Asperger’s syndrome, and a man – Scott – with another undisclosed disability, likely a form of autism.
We come alongside them in the final days before their wedding and learn a few things about each of them, through their conversations with family and with one another.
We learn that Dina has been married before. We learn that her husband passed away. We learn she dated another man after that time who stabbed her, and that she recovered from that and assumed she would never marry again. Until she met Scott.
We learn that Scott has never lived outside of his parent’s home. We learn that Scott has never seen the ocean despite living relatively close to it – in Philadelphia. We learn, in a hilariously honest and beautiful moment between them, that Scott’s sex drive is a little weaker than Dina would prefer.
Two people – loving each other. Talking about their feelings. Communicating when they feel hurt or when something is hard. Many parts of Dina's life are challenging, yet it's amazing how easily this part of life seems to comes to her. What if I didn't filter? What if I asked all of those questions I wanted to ask when I wanted to ask them?
In a conversation with her mother, Dina says, “When someone comes into your life, you need to grab them up. You never know what’s going to happen in the future. How can you live in the present when you’re always focused on the past and the future?”
In a conversation with his father, Scott receives advice that we all need to hear every once in a while. “Have your mantra, Scott. ‘I am good enough. People like me.’” Quite a good mantra.
From the lips of Dina and Scott pour forth a flood of simple truths. They say what is real for them. They are present in every moment.
We complicate things so much. We turn things over and over or we change for people or we close down. Every time Dina was upset, or Scott was upset, "I love you" fixed everything. It's amazing.
The simplicity of the I love you, of the I've got you, of the I'm not leaving. The simplicity of the I'm frustrated because, of the When you do this it makes me feel. At one point, describing her relationship with Scott, Dina says "We had our good times and we had arguments. That's how you build up a relationship."
In the final scenes, we see a vulnerable picture of Dina’s doubts about Scott’s feelings for her in her immediate vocalization of her displeasure with Scott ... walking AHEAD of her into their honeymoon hotel! It's a funny, poignant moment that reveals some real hurt and connects her instantly to every woman who knows the pain of being deeply in a relationship yet not truly seen. It’s the barely-noticeable-at-first edges of paper that become daggers in the end.
Scott’s pure and grateful love for his wife pulls them through in a unique way that you’ll have to see for yourself. I will say this: there is so much beauty in the fight to love, even when you don’t know how.
Dina is a truly empathy-creating documentary that taught me about strength and honesty and disability and love. Have you seen Dina? What did you think? What came up for you?