AUGUST 2, 2022
USA | 11 minutes | 2021

Drama, western short film directed by Lava Buckley
Starring Kitar Haiyan Chen, John K.D. Graham


1882, when two travelers meet on a railroad, the revelation that appearances are more than they seem leads to a life or death scenario.


CineAsian Films (CAF): What was the inspiration behind the story for Charlie?
Lava Buckley:
About 6 or 7 years ago, I was working with a white casting director as her assistant. She was casting a western feature and I noticed that she mainly casts white actors in westerns. So I asked her why westerns are mainly white people. She said that is how it was. I thought she was wrong and started to research diversity in the old west. I found many BIPOC stories including the story about Charlie. As an Asian Woman, I was saddened that I had no idea about Asians in the old west. This drove me to create a western that reflects an Asian woman’s story. Representation matters and we need to create stories with accurate depictions of diversity…including westerns!

CAF: What was it like shooting in New Mexico and what were some of the challenges you faced during production?
Some of the challenges were trying to frame out a lot of the background of our location, such as the modern roads and buildings. I’m fortunate to have a talented editor, Lex Benedict, who could paint out a lot of the problems. We also had to deal with another film crew. Which is really rare in the location I chose. I have been walking on the railroad tracks (which are not in working condition and have no trains) for years and the first time I ever saw a film crew out there was the day we were also filming! Then it became a huge wind storm. So we had to change our shot list on the fly and decided to change our schedule. I’m grateful for the patience and understanding of my entire cast and crew. Nobody complained and everyone was supportive of making sure the project gets finished. I will add, on the second day we filmed was the day after the Atlanta Spa shooting. It was a somber morning on our set. My non-Asian crew members felt very moved by what had happened and they expressed how glad they were to be working on Charlie to maybe help our community.

CAF: What do you hope people can take away from watching this film?
My hope was to showcase how much Asian women endure in this country but also how strong we are. Sadly, the story of Charlie addresses how in the 1800’s, Chinese women were forced in the sex industry. Also, all of the lines from Sean, are all things I have heard or experienced from a white person. I was also hoping to bring awareness that racism towards Asians is not new. Racism is not always how many white writers/directors depict the experience. For example, in Charlie, Sean thinks he is being funny or lighthearted while making fun of Chinese folks. But his behavior is a common way that I have experienced and seen racism. Which, in my opinion, is traumatizing and hurtful. It felt important to state it was inspired by a true story and to have historical context in the film.

CAF: Are you working on anything new?
I’m currently in prep for a couple of projects: one feature documentary about honoring and celebrating traditional clothing; a short narrative about a mixed Thai teenager and his Thai mother that addresses identity struggles.

Charlie is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your project.


Director, Writer, Producer: Lava Buckley
Producer: John K.D. Graham
Cinematographer: Rebeca Durán
Editor: Lex Benedict

Shot in New Mexico

More from Lava Buckley: The 3 Day Nun

Follow and Support the Filmmaker
@lifewithlava | director’s website