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Alina (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 17, 2020


ALINA (2017)

Starring Darya Ekamasova, Olga N. Bogdanova, David Atrakchi, Grisha Reydler, Anna Vlads, Alisa Ermolaev, Evgeniya Orudzheva, Diane Martella, Kathryn Kates, Valeriya Korennaya, Gabriel Sloyer, Maria Miano, Ronald Catania, John Scarpinito and Tony Naumovski.

Screenplay by Ben Barenholtz.

Directed by Ben Barenholtz.

Distributed Super 80 Films. 89 minutes. Not Rated.

It’s hard to believe that Alina is long-time film fixture Ben Barenholtz’s feature film directorial debut (he has made a couple of documentaries) at a sprightly 80 years, after many, many years on the front line of the fringes of cinema culture. Barenholtz has worn many hats over the years: distributor, producer, actor, theater manager, revivalist, indie-film champion, taste maker, counter-culture hero, inventor of the midnight movie. He played a zombie in the original Day of the Dead. He even sometimes made the popcorn at the theaters he ran.

Not only that, he was an early supporter and even sometimes collaborated with some of the great filmmakers of the generation, including Joel & Ethan Coen, David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky.

However, Barenholtz had never written and directed a fictional film before. Alina is one of two movies he has planned – the next planned film is supposed to be called Aaron.

In a time in history when the subject is about as controversial as it ever has been, Alina is a celebration of immigration, and at the same-time a celebration of his long-time home of New York City. (Barenholtz was born in the Ukraine, but moved with his family to New York as a child.)

The film is a celebration, but it is not a white-washing. It looks at the problems of the immigrant experience as well as the great joys to be found in a new land.

The title character is played by Darya Ekamasova. She is a Russian woman who has never met her father. She was conceived during a short period when her mother was living in the United States. Her mother refuses to discuss her life in the States, and all these years later, the only evidence of her father that she has is an old photograph of a man outside a New York delicatessen.

Alina decides she wants to visit New York to find her father, though she tells her mother the more acceptable story that she is visiting Cuba on vacation. One of Alina’s best friends in Moscow now lives in New York and works as a “model,” so Alina stays with her and her roommates. Of course, the model story becomes questionable quickly, it seems more they are party girls, working at a hot club, doing drugs and going home with as many men as they can.

Alina also befriends a Russian bartender she meets at the club. The two women become fast friends, and the bartender offers to help her try to track down her father.

The rest is mostly a fish-out-of-water story, Alina learns about the highs and desperate lows of New York life. The search for her father leads to a series of dead ends, until she meets a boisterous Italian family who may have some information. She ends up learning more about her mother’s life than she had ever imagined.

Alina is not exactly the world’s most unique film, but it is a sweet and good-hearted film. It’s obviously a labor of love for the writer-director, who shows a great fondness for both New York and Moscow.

Currently, it is only going to have a short one-week run at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in the Village in New York, so if you want to see the movie get a move on.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: September 15, 2017.

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