Thursday, 17 October 2013

Short Film Review #23

My Dad the Communist
It is tempting to see My Dad the Communist as something of a neat companion piece to Chimerica, featuring a Benedict Wong character responding to the events of Tiananmen Square in a completely different way but in truth, they are separate beasts and the only real thing linking them is the dearth of complex Asian-related stories on our screens and stages (although things do seem to be changing, slowly). This Lab Ky Mo film focuses on a typical British-Chinese family who work in a takeaway (where else?!) – Tony has lived all of his life in the UK yet his father has remained stubbornly, inscrutably Chinese in his behaviour, rarely uttering anything at all or showing any affection to his wife or son.

A car accident involving the older man motivates Tony to look back on his 20 year life and reflect on the rare moments that his dad did speak, realising the huge significance of those events, and the ones where he didn’t, imagining the parental figure he craved. Mo utilises the fantasy flashback several times to great effect, we really get a sense of being caught up in Tony’s reverie and it is really quite moving. Wong is customarily excellent as the taciturn father, Siu Hun Li is also strong as the son trying to do things differently, not least with his own new wife, an expressive performance from Tuyen Do.  



Mercutio’s Dreaming – The Killing of a Chinese Actor
Daniel York’s play The Fu Manchu Complex currently on at the Ovalhouse may take a rather light-hearted look at the way cultural stereotypes pervade but his 2011 short film Mercutio’s Dreaming: The Killing of a Chinese Actor is an altogether more serious affair, tracking the attempts of a young actor named Lawrence Yang to make a career for himself on the stage. But from the opening moments as Andrew Koji delivers Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech at an industry showcase, it becomes clear that the odds are stacked against him. 

Where York really succeeds is in rooting all of his characters that block Lawrence’s way in a horribly persuasive truth. The agent that specialises in Asian bit-parts, the agent who already has an Oriental on the books, the director who wants nothing but the stereotype, even the Asian actors who have bitten their tongue and accepted the status quo, complicit in a system that does them no favours. It is genuinely thought-provoking stuff and surprisingly hard to watch as Lawrence’s resolve is crushed bit by bit.


A Single Man
An amiable comic short, Daniel Johnson’s A Single Guy follows the hapless Danny as he ricochets from bad date to catastrophic date, having his personality and behaviour pulled apart by friends and would-be lovers, all the while failing to notice that sometimes the answer lies right under our noses. Greg Wohead is brilliantly awkward yet good-natured as Danny, not quite able to function like normal people, Katherine Innes is charismatic as a long lost school-friend and Vera Chok’s is fun as one of his catalogue of dating disasters. Short and sweet,


That Sunday
Going way back to 1994, That Sunday is a cute Dan Zeff he said/she said film, featuring youthful incarnations of Minnie Driver and Alan Cumming as good friends coming to terms with their feelings for each other. It’s energetically fun and hugely likeable, features a cameo from handsome Propeller alum Vince Leigh and ought to be able to charm anyone with its light-hearted ways. 


How To Make Friends
First things first – the lead actor’s name in this is Laget-Konstantinos Randriamahitasoua-Galanis which seems at once one of the best and worst names to have, what must his signature look like?! This Kara Miller short is a slight thing, a short tale of a shy young boy and his struggle to be sociable and though it is certainly sweet, it holds little real substance apart from a killer soundtrack of Caribbean rhythms.

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