Written and Directed by Bert Salzman, United States, 1975, 27 minutes
Source: You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGTPj1HsKb0
Won an Academy award in 1976 for Best Live Action Short Film
Angel and Big Joe is about a young migrant worker and his family who are waiting for a call from their father to tell them to move to Arizona once he finds work out there. While waiting for the call, the family runs out of money and Angel, the oldest son, needs to find a job. Angel goes into business with Big Joe growing and selling roses in a green house Big Joe and Angel built together. The two end up becoming close friends. When the long awaited call comes from Angel’s father, Angel has to choose between staying with Big Joe and having a promising future, or leaving with his family for an uncertain future. Feeling a sense of duty to his family, Angel moves on to Arizona with them.
The length of this short is a lot longer than most of the short films I have seen so far. I thought that the length of it almost being a half hour would be boring, but I enjoyed the length. I felt that with a longer film, the director was able to examine Angel and Big Joe’s friendship further than just a ten-minute snippet of their friendship. What I mean to say is that I liked that we could see the beginning, middle, and end of Angel and Big Joe’s relationship, rather than just a partial view of it. I also felt that with the longer film, the director was able to further develop the two character’s friendship and the viewer really got the sense that they had a strong bond.
I love the scene where Angel and Big Joe are inside eating at the kitchen table and Angel is talking about aliens on other planets and how he thinks those aliens might be Hispanic workers just like him except that they rule the planet. After Angel’s little monologue, they laugh full heartedly together. This scene showed me that these two people cared for each other, and I got a true sense of their relationship.
I was impressed by Bert Salzman’s use of a migrant worker character in his film without touching on all of the problems regarding illegal immigrants, green cards, and visas. Personally, I feel that if Salzman brought in all of those issues, the story would have been weighted down with political swill. Maybe not in 1975, but in 2008, the issues regarding migrant workers seem to be a dead horse people won’t stop beating (but this is coming from someone who immensely dislikes politics of any kind).
I found this film entertaining and interesting. The lesson learned at the end of “do what makes you happy” I think is constant and can apply to everybody’s lives from 1975 to present day.
The film showed two cases of family duty versus personal happiness. In Big Joe’s case he chose his family over his own happiness for six years and he ended up resenting them for it. In Angel’s case, he was presented with two doors to go through. Door number one, to stay behind while his family left for Arizona and do something he loves. Door number two, was to leave with his family and be a migrant worker for the rest of his life. Both choices have their drawbacks and so he chose the hidden door number three, to leave with his family and eventually find work that he loved to do.
The ending might be considered “cheesy” to some, but I found it fitting for Angel to choose the median lifestyle for himself.