Director Rami Kodeih’s Award Winning film Alina, is twenty-five minutes of well-crafted chaos and tension. Inspired by real people and events, the film follows the endeavors of a group of women who smuggle a friend’s baby to safety in German-occupied Poland. During the Nazi invasion, these women, played by Alia Shawkat, Erika Soto, Rebeca Robles, and Dorota Puzio, risk their lives to serve as an integral part of the Polish resistance that is unfortunately understated in modern discourse. The protagonist, Alina (Alia Shawkat), is tested physically and psychologically as she faces several obstacles on her route to safety. With unyielding composure and determination, she’s forced to think on her feet and narrowly escape harm’s way.
The incredible performances seen by Shawkat, Soto, Robles, and Puzio pay homage to the bravery of these real-life women. Their fierce and resilient portrayals are a refreshing representation of women in high-stress situations that combat the stereotype of women who are overcome and incapacitated by emotion. These women take charge every step of the way, supported by their male counterparts instead of overshadowed by them.
The quick-paced editing (Kodeih) and handheld feel of the film help preserve the tension until the very end when Alina lets out a long-held breath in the final shot. Cinematographer Matthew Plaxco’s grainy color-drained visuals and moody lighting transport the audience to a less than dreary time in history. The weathered set and costume design composed of historically accurate fabrics and patterns reflect the exhaustion and unrest of the Warsaw resistance. With its awe-inspiring and memorable score, Alina has mastered the formula for a top contender in this year’s award season. As a film that spotlights the understated heroes of the Holocaust, Alina is an unforgettable piece of art centered around a subject that should be remembered through stories for generations to come.