Review: ‘Alina’ Is the Work of an Indie Film Veteran, New at Directing

Review: ‘Alina’ Is the Work of an Indie Film Veteran, New at Directing
Photo

Darya Ekamasova in “Alina.” Credit Super 80 LLC

Ben Barenholtz has been a film distributor, exhibitor and producer, who has influenced the careers of David Lynch, John Sayles and Joel and Ethan Coen. He has even been credited with inventing the concept of the midnight movie at Chelsea’s long-gone Elgin Theater, which he ran. Alas, the self-financed “Alina,” his first fiction feature as a director, looks like the work of someone just starting out.

This fish-out-of-water story goes to predictable places in unconvincing ways. Alina (Darya Ekamasova), a Russian with a passion for photography, travels to New York seeking her father, whom she’s never met. (Not wanting to alarm her mother, she pretends she’s going to Cuba.)

Alina soon discovers the city is full of sharks. She moves in with an old friend (Anna Vlads) and her two roommates, not realizing that when they bring her to a party, they expect her to have sex with the rich hosts. When she goes to work for a nightclub owner (Grisha Reydler) who has helped with her search, she is slow to realize that the job involves more than serving champagne.

Although the internet and cellphones exist in the movie, there’s a dated quality to the premise. Even if Alina’s only clue is an old photograph of a man who may be her father, tracking down the owners of the building in the photo — which has a visible address — seems like a task for search engines. And if you were to go the route of simply finding someone who knows someone, repeatedly, as Alina does, it would probably involve less coincidence.

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