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Short Film Wednesday - Joy Joy Nails

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day.

As an Asian-American, I have heard the immigrant experience told way too many times. In many ways, I have lived it, even though I was born here, and my parents and their families were the true immigrants. The immigrant narrative is not unimportant; it’s just that the way that is told is often so conventional and predictable. So when I read the synopsis for Joy Joy Nails, I was not expecting much, or at the very least, I was expecting a very familiar story.

From the first lines of Korean dialogue, I felt a familiarity, but not in a bad, trite way. When I was listening to these women, I could instantly hear Korean women that I knew. They were gossiping and cursing in such a realistic way that I knew that there was no way that this was scripted. Indeed, director Joey Ally, who is a self-described “white lady from New York and Connecticut,” said that the actors would improvise in their own languages. All the actors are so great, and it would be a shame to write this review without a shout out to at least Kahyun Kim (Sarah) and Yi Liu (Mia) who both capably handle the dramatic tone of this film.

Another issue I have with many Asian-American films is that they are often so uninteresting visually. In this film, Joey Ally manages to express big ideas with carefully chosen shots. When the women are driven to work, we see them going through neighborhoods that span the gamut of wealth. She also slips in some great cinematic moments, especially at the climax, in which two characters fight and a neon sign lights the scene ominously. While these immigrant women are very definitely disenfranchised and poor, they also have humanity and dignity. They are allowed to be heroic and have victories. Not that they are perfect either. The film does not shy away from the racism that minorities often have for other minorities, which is in fact, a driving force for the film.

I hope that Joey Ally has a career similar to Sean Baker’s in that I hope she continues to make great stories about people who have never been featured in the White mainstream cinema. She proves with this film that she not only has the empathy but the great technical skill and artistry required to make some truly exciting films.

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