Winning a big award in the Sundance Film Festival is not the norm for an adaptive physical education teacher, but it’s just what Darlene Anderson ’73 did earlier this year.
Anderson, who works with mentally disabled adults in the Philadelphia area, served as a unit production manager for the award-winning documentary, “Dina.” The movie tells the candid, real-life love story of Dina Buno and Scott Levin, two suburban Philadelphians on the autism spectrum. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017.
The Salt Lake Tribune described “Dina” as “perhaps the most beautiful romance” at the 2017 festival, while the Hollywood Reporter called it, “a sensitive snapshot of two ordinary people on the autism spectrum who are determined to carve out a meaningful future together.”
The movie was directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini. Anderson has known Sickles for decades, having worked with his late-father, Ed, who was co-advisor of the Kiwanis Aktion Club, a service club for disabled adults. She also knew Buno and Levin, who are members of the club.
“My role as unit production manager was an organic extension of what I do as a special education teacher and Kiwanian,” she said. “I provided education and information and organized people and events. I supported the vision Dan and Antonio had for the film. When my schedule permits, I travel with Dina and the directors to various film festivals promoting the film.”
Anderson also got to go to Park City, Utah, for Sundance. “Attending Sundance was an amazing experience,” she said. “I traveled with Dina and Scott to Park City and assisted them with their hectic schedule — early interviews, photo shoots, screenings, red-carpet events, after parties, promoting the film. It was both exhausting and invigorating.”
Asked if she met anyone famous at Sundance, Anderson said, “We did get one afternoon to ride a cable car and looked for stars. We were often stopped on the street by random people who had seen the film and they shared stories about a friend, relative, son, or daughter who had autism. They thanked us for bringing Dina and Scott’s story to the screen.”
“The story of Dina and Scott is a beautiful love story, told with honesty and respect. They are intelligent and complicated people, and like everyone else they have hurdles to overcome. Dan, Antonio, and the production team told the story with respect and a loving eye … and the respect and love they felt for the cast is shown in the film.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual. “Darlene has been my hero for a long time, and there’s no understating how much she does for her community,” Sickles said. “Her commitment, love, and tenacity inspire me to be a better person. Collaborating with her on this film was a dream.”
“Dina” opens in select theaters in October, including several locations in the Philadelphia area. An invitation-only, red-carpet premier will be held at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center on Monday, October 9. It also will show at the Ambler Theater, in Ambler, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, October 12, and the Ritz at the Bourse 5, in Philadelphia, on Oct. 13 and 14.
Additional release dates and theaters and the movie trailer can be found at dina.film.