Starring: Derek Michalak, Danicah Waldo, Amy Herring, James Ellsworth;
Written and Directed by: Luis L. Del Rosario, Jr.;
MPAA Rating: NR;
Running Time: NA;
Distributed by: Netflix, Rosario Entertainment;
DVD Extras: NA
Joe (Derek Michalak) is a short order cook filled with regret and disappointment who spends most of his nights alone on the rooftop of his apartment building drinking his thoughts away.
Tanya (Amy Herring) is a waitress living under the pressure of trying to build a new life in America with amidst the thundering presence of her husband.
Then, there's Nina (Danicah Waldo), a 12-year-old runaway whose efforts to survive the mean streets are challenged time and time again.
Three people. Three different yet similar stories. What happens when their paths cross?
Written and directed by Luis L. Del Rosario, Jr. in his feature film debut, Nina is the story of how these three lives weave their journeys together and, in the process, begin to redefine exactly what is meant by the word family. Eventually, their eagerness to start over will lead to an optimistic plan to escape their meager existence in an effort to achieve a better life. Before they can escape, their love and hope will be tested again.
Winner of the Best Feature Audience Award and Best Romance Genre Award at the New York International Film Festival and the Queens Spirit Award at the Queens International Film Festival, Nina is a deeply moving and involving film featuring a trio of fine performances and a story by Del Rosario that is involving and always compelling.
Nina is the kind of film that I enjoy most, a low-budget hidden jewel that soars because of a low or non-paid cast and crew that are working together for the love of the craft, the hope that one more door to a career film might get opened and that silly ole' thing we call the American dream where anyone can achieve anything with a dream, hard work, practice and being in the right place at the right time.
If there's any justice in the world of cinema (and who knows?), Michalak, Herring and Waldo (Stop it. No "Where's Waldo?" jokes) are well on their way to bigger and, at the very least, higher paying things in the cinematic world.
This is not to say that Nina doesn't occasionally fall victim to those ever present challenges of producing a full-length feature on practically no budget. Indeed, it does. While the camera work is rather amazing given the film's modest production budget, there's no denying that certain scenes, especially those at night, are simply too dark and, at times, overhead shots are just a touch blurry given the results of budgetary editing constraints.
Yet, Del Rosario works with family for much of the film's production and this generally gives the film a remarkable consistency in tone, look and feel. Randino Del Rosario nicely handles the film's production and make-up design, while Anne Marie Del Rosario serves as the film's music supervisor.
Speaking of the music, Nina is infinitely gifted by the presence of Irish alternative band STAND. The music serves as the perfect complement to the film, allowing Del Rosario to add an emotional spark to scenes without requiring special effects or excessive editing that would have added immeasurably to the film's production costs.
When it comes down to it, though, Nina could have never worked without a solid cast to sell the story.
Derek Michalak, a veteran of stage and screen, gives a convincing and grounded performance as a man of both tremendous vulnerability and strength, while Amy Herring also shines as the young waitress Tanya. However, it is the beautiful, tender and low-key performance of Danicah Waldo, who was a 9th grader when this film was made, that truly allows Nina to transcend its fiscal and technical limits and become a truly moving and involving film.
Having been on the film festival circuit for awhile now, Nina is currently available through Netflix and on DVD.
However, boy does The Independent Critic have a special deal for you.
Time and time again, The Independent Critic gets letters from readers saying "How can we see these low budget indies you're always writing about?" Of course, film festivals and eventual release on home video are usually the only options available for many of the ultra indie flicks or those that could be termed as microcinema.
Through a special arrangement with Del Rosario Entertainment, The Independent Critic is pleased to offer one lucky reader a free copy of the just released DVD of Nina. Simply drop me an e-mail. A winner will be selected randomly from all entrants on Wednesday, August 25th!
For more information on Nina, check out the film's website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic