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The lives of three young men in their late teens and early twenties, all living desperate lives on the streets of Cabramatta, Sydney: Tommy (Jason McCormack) is a longtime heroin addict who’s once again trying to reform himself and get a job, with the help of his friend Sara (Sarah Vongmany). Van (Joe Le) has spent time in jail and now lives in a high-rise carpark. And Des (Rodney Anderson) is a drifter with a pregnant girlfriend, who joins a gang in order to raise some much-needed money.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
At first disconcertingly like a raw doco, The Finished People manages to be a docu-drama without losing its dramatic edge. Perhaps that’s due to the uncompromising approach of seeking the truth of the subject matter that Khoa Do took, extending to the screenplay created in collaboration with the actors – who are acting but also the real thing. Almost the entire cast is drawn from the streets, experienced only in life, not performing. All the main cast frequent The Open Family Welfare Centre at Cabramatta. 

Hard on the heart, the film avoids judgement but still manages to condemn a society where our collective responsibility is shoved onto the social services of a Government. A good discussion on the film would canvass why one of the youths declares his hatred for John Howard is such he would seriously want to shoot him if he had the chance. What Khoa Do’s film shows us is the desperation of feeling that nobody cares; it’s not just the Government’s job to care. But the film is by no means a bleeding heart essay; far from it. 

It does make you consider what we are doing wrong – or rather, what many things we are not doing right – in providing for our youth. Their boredom and lack of self worth drives so many into self-destructive lives. Made more by the rules of doco making (or unintentional Dogme, perhaps) the film’s roughness is no drawback; but the music is. It is the only (distracting, sentimental) element that could be reconsidered to give the film the full impact it is capable of. The film’s value as a social document is unquestionable; it should end up on television, not only to show that television is capable of truth and reality, but also to hold the mirror up to one set of ‘Neighbours’ otherwise ignored by the mainstream. Maybe that would help these guys feel less like they were finished. 

Review by Jake Wilson:
After all the recent Australian films have flopped despite vast amounts of hype, it’s a relief to be able to praise this unassuming 80-minute digital video, an omnibus narrative which the young director, Khoa Do, devised in collaboration with a group of street-kids. Khoa’s script for the excellent short film Delivery Day (directed by Jane Manning) was a model of comic structure, but here he sets his artistic sights lower, using a loose framework that can incorporate various brief, often melodramatic scenes that were improvised by the performers. 

The camerawork tends to be fly-on-the-wall basic, though editing is used resourcefully in the fight scenes to suggest unseen violence. Less successful are the intermittent “pillow shots” that have the characters wordlessly contemplating life from the vantage point of a park bench or a high rise carpark, overlaid with awful New Age music. The amateur acting is inevitably hit and miss – the kids mumble their way through scenes or overplay stridently – but at its best gives an impression of unfiltered, tape-recorder realism: the two standout performances are by Jason McGoldrick and Danielo Italiano, both extroverted, unselfconscious personalities who heartbreakingly play “themselves”. A scene near the end where Italiano breaks down is difficult to watch, both because her distress is clearly unfeigned and because it’s impossible to know how far the character’s desolation mirrors her real plight. (It’s a bit puzzling that the three leads are all male – why relegate the girls to support roles?) 

What makes the film fascinating even in its weaker moments is a sense that these kids are looking at themselves from the point of view of an imaginary audience, discovering the dramatic potential of their own lives: in a series of vignettes where Tommy applies for different jobs, you wonder whether McGoldrick is simply re-enacting scenes he’s lived through countless times, or doing his own version of a comedy routine he might have remembered from Trainspotting.

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KHOA DO INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban



CAST: Rodney Anderson, Joe Le, Jason McGoldrick, Daniela Italiano, Sarah Vongmany, Shane MacDonald, Ivan Topic, Viet Dang, Miriam Marquez

PRODUCER: Khoa Do, Anh Do


SCRIPT: Khoa Do, Rodney Anderson, Myinh Dinh, Daniela Italiano, Joe Le, Shane McDonald, Jason McGoldrick, Sarah Vongmany


EDITOR: Alison Croft

MUSIC: Abigail Hatherly


RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney & Melbourne: October 23, 2003

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