Dina Buno is a 49-year-old American woman who is marrying her boyfriend Scott Levin in a few weeks. This in and of itself wouldn’t be a particularly unique story but, interestingly, Dina and Scott both have Asperger syndrome. This is a heart-warming documentary that depicts an ordinary romance from an oft-marginalised part of society. For Dan Sickles, co-director with Antonio Santini, this topic is close to home as he grew up with Dina. His deceased father was her former SEN teacher and founder of an organisation for adults with disabilities of which she is still a member. With this familiarity, Dina is a remarkably personal and insightful story about an extraordinary couple.
Santini and Sickles omit narration or dynamic camera work, preferring to keep the camera at a distance to allow Dina and her friends and family to behave more naturally. For example, Dina sits down to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Scott talks about his love of Evanescence and they discuss concerns about dealing with married life with their parents. What makes Dina so delightfully endearing is that it presents a wonderful slice of mundanity, as well as genuine romance, rather than opting for becoming an explanation of neurodevelopmental disorders.
In fact, Dina clearly aims for a neurodiverse approach, as its minimalist and non-intrusive style routinely invites us to challenge some of our assumptions of people on the autism spectrum. Refreshingly the film doesn’t opt for sensationalism and is relatively restrained even when potential fodder like Dina and Scott’s struggles with intimacy are depicted.
As subjects themselves, Dina and Scott are immensely likeable. Their love for each other comes across as genuine, and their commitment is strong even if there are some obstacles to establishing passion. Dina is enthusiastic, outgoing and is easy to root for as we watch her tackle small hindrances and deal with bigger past trauma.
If there’s any negative aspect, it’s that parts of the film leave us yearning for more backstory or insight about how the couple function in their day-to-day life. Despite this, Dina is a wonderfully endearing and occasionally delightfully awkward documentary. It’s a terrific unconventional story that demands applause.
Dina is released in selected cinemas on 20th October 2017.
Watch the trailer for Dina here: