trauma of war always ripples outward in concentric circles, deeply affecting
entire communities. During World War II,
rural Australia faced devastating losses.
Nobody understood this better than the beleaguered messengers, like Bill
Williams, who sets off on yet another sad task in James Khehtie’s short film, The Telegram Man (trailer here), which screens as
part of the How To . . . shorts program
at the 2012 Asian American International Film Festival.
used to be a popular fellow, so folks in town try to keep up appearances around
him. However, delivering death notices
has taken a toll on his social life and his psyche. Sadly, he has one of his worst calls ahead of
him. Based on the short story “American
Farm ‘44” by John Boyne, the author of The
Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Telegram Man easily transfers from the United
States to Western Australia, because the underlying issues and emotions are so
had Boyne and director Bruce
Beresford on-board as advisers, but his real ace in the hole is lead actor,
Jack Thompson. You might not recognize
the unremarkable name, but you will know the craggy face from crossover hits
from down under, like The Man from Snowy
River, The Sum of Us, and Beresford’s Breaker
Morant. Though he is often cast in
parts that capitalize on his commanding presence, his performance here is
marked by an acute sensitivity.
Khehtie is Asian, Telegram Man might
not exactly be the sort of film one would expect to find programmed at
AAIFF. Nevertheless, it is a very
assured and compassionate work, so good for them for selecting it. In contrast, the K-town gangster drama Jin (trailer here) might seem like
a more traditional choice, but Il Cho’s AFI-supported short is also an
emotionally complex and gripping work.
the death of their immigrant parents, Jin raises his school-aged brother by
himself. It is not easy, because he
works nights. He is low level enforcer
for a gang operating in Los Angeles’s Korea-Town. Essentially enlisted in the mob’s management
training program, he has been assigned to an increasingly erratic lieutenant. Clearly, the current arrangement is not
conducive to the stability Jin hopes to provide his little brother.
strong gangster movie elements and a touching story of sibling dedication, Jin nicely combines the best of both cinematic
worlds, albeit in a starkly noir package.
Indeed, optimism might be the one thing Il Cho leaves out of the mix,
but the performances are dynamite.
Justin Chon is magnetically riveting as the title character, while Lance
Lim’s bright, endearing presence as his young brother serves as an effective counter-point. With Josiah D. Lee falling apart rather
spectacularly, it is quite the small but impressive ensemble.
AAIFF has a history of selecting interesting
shorts and both Telegram Man and Jin continue the tradition. Recommended for general audiences, they
screen together as part of the How To . .
. shorts block this Saturday (7/28) as the 2012 Asian American
International Film Festival continues in Chelsea.
Labels: AAIFF '12, Australian cinema, Short Films