America has long been the land of dreams, of freedom for the oppressed, and for the promise of a better life for immigrants. Recent events including the rise and effects of terrorism and the inundation of illegal immigrants from south of the borders have alerted this country to perceived dangers in the 'open arms' posture America has maintained since its beginning. LANA'S RAIN is a stunning film that shifts the focus of immigration to the viewpoint of those immigrating and the result is a story that is at once terrifying and heartrending. Writer/director Michael S. Ojeda asks us to look at the plight of those seeking American asylum, and though the result is a film that is a bit heavy handed, there is an important message here.
The story begins in 1995 in Bosnia during the Balkan wars and we are introduced to the main character Lana (Oxana Orlenko) struggling to survive in the war-torn streets. She seeks and finds her long lost brother Darco (Nickolai Stoilov) who happily receives her and promises to take her to America using some 'recently acquired money'. After stowing away on a cargo ship they arrive in Chicago and are immediately smitten with the beauty of their new land. While Lana dreams in a city park with their luggage containing the money and all their possessions, Darco seeks a place to live. While Lana is sleeping and dreaming of her new life, the luggage 'disappears' and when Darco returns they must now seek shelter and food as beggars. Darco talks Lana into an act of prostitution out of desperation: Lana consents only to fall into the hands of a sadistic client.
Gradually the two find a room, Darco is promised a job in a fish market, but the job is not available for a month. Once again Darco asks Lana to be a prostitute, this time under his 'supervision and protection' as Lana speaks no English at all. Lana woefully consents out of her love for her brother and the two make enough money for room and food. But when Darco begins spending money beyond their means and his past life of crime in Bosnia surfaces in various ways, Lana feels demoralized and defeated and finds her only consolation in a fragile friendship with a Chinese sculptor Julian (Luoyong Wang), despite the language barrier. Ultimately Darco's past life and evil spirit take the forefront and Lana feels compelled to assist those Bosnian forces in Chicago who seek Darco for past crimes in his homeland. How Lana survives this life and finds her own life forms the end of the story.
Though the film is unrelentingly grim in color, story, excessive bloody faces, and undercurrents, director Ojeda does make his point that all too often immigrants are driven into a life of crime out of desperation to stay alive in the land of plenty. The actors are convincing in their roles and while Lana's plight grows a bit repetitive and tiresome at times, Orlenko keeps us caring about her Lana. Likewise Nickolai Stoilov creates a two-sided character so successfully that we can believe Lana's love then hate for him. This is a dark film but one with an important message. Just be prepared for a violent movie. Grady Harp, August 05