A charming slice-of-life piece about a low-rent radio station in Alice Springs, Australia, “Green Bush” is more effective at defining a fictional world than most features.
The central figure of this gently humanistic 27-minute drama is Kenny (David Page), a DJ at a remote station broadcasting to an impoverished Aboriginal community. The story comprises one airing of his “Green Bush Show,” a call-in program that doubles as a neighborhood bulletin board.
Writer-director Warwick Thornton methodically sketches Benny’s daily routine, grounding moments in richly textured detail. We can smell the stew Kenny heats up in the station’s grubby kitchen, feel his frustration when 8-track tapes break in the middle of the broadcast, sense his empathy as he deals with callers’ gripes.
The running gag in the early stretch of the picture is that each time Kenny looks away from the station’s front door, another member of his listening audience has shown up in person. A parade of Aboriginal seniors arrives at the station to eat Kenny’s food, pass the time with friendly company, and even hide out from abusive relatives.
A picture of Kenny as the neighborhood nurturer soon comes into focus, and Thornton takes us inside the DJ’s conflicting emotions about his role. Just as the movie succinctly depicts an environment, it gracefully defines an emotional journey in which Benny questions his identity.
While many of the players are nonactors whose remarkable faces imbue wordless roles with credibility, the picture ultimately succeeds because of Page’s winning performance. He embodies every appealing quality of this warm, memorable film.