Assignment 2
Site By: Andrew Piela
Student Number: 30596697
Created on 25 April 2007

The Finished People
Directed by Khoa Do

Synopsis

Throughout Sydney, along with all major Australian cities, teenagers and young adults find themselves on the streets due to poor decisions and unfortunate mistakes. First-time director Khoa Do depicts through a documentary style what life is like for many of these people in The Finished People. The film begins with quotes from homeless youths which speak of how people who pass by “think we’re low-life’s capable of nothing,” as well as think they “are part of the brick wall” (19-year old street kid).

             Focus is on three young men named Des, Van, and Thomas, ages 17, 20, and 23 respectively. Des impregnates his girlfriend and is forced on the streets searching for food, money and medical care for both of them. Desperate to make ends meat, Des turns to a friend who deals drugs. Des is introduced to the Boss (Ivan Topic) and immediately becomes a go-to guy for the supplier. Before long, the Boss has the inexperienced teen wrapped around his finger and Des is pressured to kill someone he has not met. Unable to pull the trigger, Des runs away from the scene and leaves his girlfriend with a couple shifty characters. When Des comes back to get her, he is immediately sought out by the Boss who threatens revenge for Des’ disappearing act.

             Along the same theme of drug usage, the audience meets Thomas, a recovering heroin addict trying to get back on his feet. It is evident from the start that Thomas lives on the wrong side of town, yet still has a roof over his house, unlike the other two characters. Throughout the movie, Thomas suffers from the effects of withdrawals while marketing himself in interviews so he could get a job and stable pay. After asking her, his long-time friend Sara (Mylinh Dinh) donates her efforts to helping Thomas get his life back. Unfortunately, the business world refuses to give Thomas a chance and Sara’s efforts prove useless. The frustrations of failure become too much and Thomas first turns to booze, then heroin to dull the pain.

             The last main character has not looked to drugs or alcohol to escape his difficult life. Van lives in a car park where wakes up everyday amidst rubbish on the roof of a stairwell. He resorts to stealing for clothing and food everyday until he steals clothes off of a line which belongs to a girl whose kindness overwhelms him. Van and his new friend Carla become closer as she motivates him to stop stealing. The relationship takes a twist at the end when Carla’s symptoms of being sick reflect the more serious disease of AIDS.

             Although the characters all share the interest of getting off the streets and start a stable life, the stories do not interact with each other. The ending depicts the harsh reality that there usually is no good outcome for these homeless youths.

Critical Review

Nominated for two 2004 AFI awards, The Finished People strikes a chord with those who see it, even after the movie has finished. Even though the style and techniques indicate a documentary, all persons in front of the camera are actors, which is evident from the start. The 27-year-old director, Khoa Do created the concept and idea for this movie after studying film classes outside Sydney in Cabramatta. This is Khoa’s first major film, as well as the three main actors,’ who co-wrote the movie with him. This is an interesting fact since it is very rare to see more than one actor helping to write a piece that they star in.

It is apparent this is some of the actors’ first role, as facial expressions and dialogue do not necessarily always match up to the emotions of that particular scene. Rodney Anderson (Des) struggled with this the most when he continuously cracked a smile when the scene required sincerity and solemness. Contrary to Rodney, Jason McGoldrick did an excellent job with the role of Tommy, a heroin addict struggling to find commonplace in society. Jason made is clear his brain has been broken down over time by the amount of drugs he has taken and his withdrawal symptoms are authentic. Joe Le (Van) does a good job with his character, however, a little nervousness can be seen throughout the movie since this is probably his first big role.

Aside from the acting being very dry, the film itself marries the documentary art genre with fiction quite nicely. Despite the movie’s fictitiousness, it would have to be labelled as an art film. Khoa Do uses many cinematic techniques that directors of documentaries also use and the viewer is able to sense a strong push to capture the strength of film. One such technique is the little amount of dialogue used paired with long, dramatic pauses where silence is used to strike emotion in the audience. Another Australian film which uses this technique is Beneath Clouds. Even though there was more dialogue in Beneath Clouds, distant, large, and long camera shots paired with quietness from both of the main characters gave the movie the sharp edge it needed. The same can be said for this movie. The cinematography really develops the story and keeps the audience thinking the entire picture, even after the credits are over. The camera shots are those of a top documentary art film, which makes the viewer believe the stories are real, even though the director does not hide behind the fact that they are not.

The genre of art film really encompasses a broad scope of style and micro-genres. The documentary type of art film is becoming more and more popular in the industry due to its strong reactions and low cost to make. The  Finished  People is a low-budget independent film, which is a great place to start for experience in directing as well as acting. Alongside documentary type and art genre, the film has another subcategory of Asian influence and style. Being that the director is Asian, one would expect a strong Asian influence and it is apparent Khoa Do is proud of that. Nearly all of the gang and fight scenes the charters get wrapped up in involve Karate  or other Kung Fu manoeuvres. It is clear the acting by the martial arts actors is not very good and contact between them is obviously nonexistent. This is another downfall of the film, as there are almost too many fight scenes and they aren't even good! Other Asian influences that are noticeable include the soft background music like something you would hear in the elevator of a five-star hotel in Hong Kong, and various Asian actors cast for parts throughout the movie. One is even the director Khoa Do’s sister. Despite the fact that Khoa Do is Australian, it is a nice contrast from the American and Australian style I am used to watching.

All in all, the film does a decent job portraying the lives of youths who live on the streets. Reviewers of the film seem to be a bit more of a fanatic about the film than I am, but I still feel as though the cast and crew has done an excellent job to create a strong movie that touches all that watch it. Reporters such as Dov Kornitz from FILMINK MAGAZINE describe the movie as “a totally engrossing, heartfelt and immediate movie experience that needs to be seen”(7). I wouldn't necessarily agree with that statement or that it would “change lives” (1), yet the purpose of the movie is clear, meaningful, and developed. The only downfalls are the acting and some of the camera shots (such as a night scene where the shadows of the director and cameramen can be seen), however, these skills will be better with time and practice. It is an excellent film for a group of rookies, yet there is quite a bit of praise for the picture as a whole. Everyone involved in the movie must have been doing something right considering it won the 2003 IF Independent Spirit Award, was an official selection for the 2003 Montreal World Film Festival, and two AFI nominations. It is a good film which I would definitely recommend to friends, however, I would tell them about the first-time mistakes made by cast and crew beforehand.

An average of four stars was given to the film by reviews I have found, but I can only give three and a half due to dryness by some of the characters, along with the other reasons previously stated.
***.5

Dates, Figures, Media

Release Dates

The Finished People was released on 21 October 2003, premiering in Sydney and Melbourne.
Box Office Figures

In the opening weekend, the movie brought in about $12,730, $9,668 of which in Sydney, and the other $3,062 from Melbourne. There was a strong positive response to the movie, which resulted in good DVD sales and rental figures

What’s in the Media?

Proven as a powerful film for any age group, The Finished People has gotten decent press since its release in 2003. An excellent interview with the director Khoa Do and case study can be found #here:

http://www.afc.gov.au/newsandevents/afcnews/converse/khoado/newspage_150.aspx

*Other interviews are not made available to the public so fees and a subscription are required.

An article about Khoa Do was also written after he received The Young Australian of the Year award for year 2005:

http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/pages/page129.asp

A few good reviews about the film including clips from the picture are listed by link below. There is great feedback and  reactions from the press despite the presence of inexperience:

http://www20.sbs.com.au/movieshow/index.php?action=review&id=1220
http://www.roninfilms.com.au/video/0/90/2391701085.html
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/29/1067233226785.html?from=storyrhs