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Film / Angel and Big Joe

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Angel and Big Joe is a 1975 short film (27 minutes) directed by Bert Salzman.

Angel Diaz is a migrant worker. The tomatoes in upstate New York farm country have already been picked, but Angel and his mother and his little brother have stayed behind in a migrant cabin while the father hunts for work in Arizona. They haven't heard from him in a long time, however, and their money is running out.

Angel tries to place a call from the pay phone outside the cabin, only to find that the phone is out of order. They need the phone, as that is the only way Angel's father can contact them. Angel shouts down "Big" Joe (Paul Sorvino), a telephone lineman who is repairing a pole across the street. Joe is so unfamiliar with Latino culture that he initially spells "Diaz" as "Diac". But when Joe needs help fixing his roof, he offers Angel some work. As Angel helps Joe with odd jobs, the two very different people form a bond.

Created by the Learning Corporation of America as part of a series called "Learning to Be Human"; intended for school classrooms as a starting point for discussion. Still available.


  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Angel needs his phone fixed. Joe tells him to call the phone company. Angel says "How am I going to call the telephone office if my phone's broken?"
  • Downer Ending: Angel, believing himself bound by family loyalty, gives up a chance to stay with Joe and make a future growing roses.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Migrant farm workers. Angel hates picking tomatoes.
  • 555: The number of the pay phone is 555-9728.
  • The Ghost: Angel's father, believed to be looking for work in Arizona. At the start of the movie he's already been out of touch longer than expected.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Big Joe is old enough to be Angel's father. They become close friends, doing stuff like playing basketball when they aren't working on the greenhouse.
  • Meet Cute: A platonic version thereof, as Angel sees Big Joe atop a telephone pole, and yells at him until Joe agrees to fix the pay phone.
  • Name and Name: Angel and Big Joe
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with the bus carrying Angel and his family away.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: In the backstory. Joe says he was so scared during "the war" (Vietnam?) that he lost the ability to speak for a while.
  • Single Tear: Angel on the bus, having elected to go to Arizona.
  • Voiceover Letter: Angel leaves a letter taped to the phone in which he tells Joe that he's going away.