By Victoria Wharfe McIntyre | Action
A WWII soldier finds his entire life has been stolen. So he takes justice into his own hands.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

World War II is going on, and Australia is conscripting Aboriginal men into service, even though they don’t have citizenship or rights in the country. Miro is one of these men, taken from his family and thrown onto the battlefield, where he risks his life at the front lines for a country that treats him as less than human and deprives him of his rights.

But when he returns back home, he discovers his land has been taken from him and his family spirited away from their home, relocated to a dangerous place where his wife and daughter are persecuted and preyed upon. Miro decides to rescue them, taking the bravery he’s learned on the battlefield to mete out his own brand of justice.

Writer-director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s epic short mixes historical drama with the Western genre, making for a supremely stylish, engaging yet eye-opening look at a forgotten chapter and perspective in history. It has a contemporary energy in its movement and stylistic bravura, but a classicism in its epic sweep and power.

The visuals have the look and feel of a feature, with sweeping camerawork and bold, vivid cinematography that evoke everything from the tension of the battlefront to the dusty isolation of the Australian desert. The film is on the longer side for a short, and the scope of the narrative is also unusually wide-ranging, spanning a diverse range of locations and time. As a result, the pacing and events move quickly, keeping the audience on its toes and constantly ratcheting up the tension.

The audience is pulled through a vast historical and cultural tableau, and while there are beautiful images to tantalize the eye and action sequences that compel attention, viewers are also asked to consider the experience of WWII from a point-of-view not often chronicled in the history books.

Though the dramatic treatment is heightened by Western flourishes, Miro’s story is based on actual historical precedent and situations. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples served in both world wars well before they were considered citizens of Australia, and faced enormous prejudice and discrimination despite their sacrifice and heroism — the same situation Miro faces in the story. Miro can’t get justice or respect even though he fought for a government that is mistreating his people and family. So like any Western hero, he decides to take the law into his own hands, in a spectacular ending that is both thrilling in its unfolding and stylishly bold in its execution.

Immersive and gripping, “Miro” takes the traditional war hero story and gives it an Indigenous slant, and then adds a Western kick to the drama. Yet instead of making a lone outsider the engine of the story’s action, it puts Miro’s domestic and ancestral identity at front and center, making him emotionally relatable as a husband and father out to preserve his culture and protect his loved ones from danger.

In many ways, the epic, even glamorous quality of the filmmaking is its own form of honor and wish fulfillment, for a people who have long suffered and whose struggles have been erased from historical record. The war experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island soldiers are only just beginning to be recovered and recorded, and while “Miro” isn’t a documentary, it still inserts Indigenous presence in the great traditions of cinematic storytelling, with style, audacity and respect.

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