The New BoyA short film directed by Steph Green
Observations (chronological)The diegetic sound of the children’s voicesindicates that communication is key to their sense ofconnection and belonging. This is juxtaposed toJoseph’s silence in the Irish school. His lack ofcommunication inhibits his ability to belong early onthe in the film, and is not broken until he findscommon ground with his classmates and imitates histeacher “Now”.
Positioning of the title “New Boy” on the left hand side of the frameindicates that the new boy will be powerless.
Notice that, from Joseph’s point of view, his new classmates are blurry andconfusing. This is an example of shallow focus, as well as a point of viewshot, and indicates that Joseph does not understand his new peers orsurroundings, nor does he feel a connection to either.
The motif of raising the hands is symbolic of surrender and highlights theteacher’s perception of belonging being synonymous with conformity. Theuse of shallow focus indicates Joseph’s lack of understanding of thisbehaviour, because to him it signifies danger. Despite this, his desire tobelong sees him slowly copy his peers.The push for conformity is emphasised by the diegetic sound of thechildren simultaneously putting their hands down.
Despite the scarcity of furniture in the set design of the African school,colour is used to show the vibrancy of this place and the strength ofJoseph’s connection to it. The high-saturation yellow worn by this teachersuggests happiness and vibrancy.
In Africa, students are seated side by side on bench seats. This highlightstheir connection. On the other hand, students in Ireland sit at separatetables, indicating their disconnectedness.
This midshot demonstrates that this student is also disengaged. Thissuggests that everybody experiences a lack of belonging in some form,either through disengagement from activities, lack of respect, differentculture, being different (e.g. wearing glasses) or learning difficulty.
Clip One• The long shot of the children running and cheering as they leave for a break indicates a lack of true belonging in the classroom for all of the students as they are so keen to be away from that particular place.• Joseph is shown alone, unable to understand why the children left so excitedly when his classmates in Africa had not behaved in this way. His inability to behave like his peers alienates him from them.
Clip Two• Notice the use of sound in this sequence. The diegetic sound of children playing is typical of a primary school playground, but the traditional African musical score is not. This indicates that the past and present are going to collide for Joseph.• In a point of view shot, the camera pans the playground, following Joseph’s scan of what is occurring. He remains framed alone, while the other children are shown in groups. This emphasises his sense of isolation and disconnection.
Clip Three• Initially, the midshot of the three boys indicates no connection between them. Their eyes are downcast and their dialogue (such as “I didn’t do anything”) is defensive.• The teacher is depicted using a low angle shot, suggesting that the pressure to belong in the way that she thinks is correct is strong.• The connection between students relies on their combined strength against their teacher. Even though Hazel is dobbing him in, Christian still laughs at her confrontation with the teacher, including Hazel’s wit “I am standing”.
Clip Three cont.• When Seth makes the observation “She thinks she’s robbing a f**king bank”, his body language changes, with a midshot showing his outside shoulder leaning in towards the other two boys. This suggests that he is more open to a connection with both boys now.• Joseph’s first dialogue in the Irish school is an imitation of his teacher, “Now”. This helps to establish a bond with his peers. The diegetic sound at this point also includes laughing and the boys begin to make eye contact with each other. This suggests the establishment of a new positive relationship and perception of belonging for all three boys.
Seth Quinn• Seth feels a lack of belonging due his learning difficulties. He responds by acting out (“Miss, Seth Quinn threw me book out the window”) and denying any knowledge of problems (“Nothin’”)• His type of character demonstrates that different people experience different ideas about belonging. They have different criteria for belonging, different barriers and different responses to these experiences. Consider how Seth differs from Joseph.
A sense of belonging changes over time.The film demonstrates three key stages in Joseph’s experience ofbelonging:1. At school in Africa, Joseph clearly belonged. The diegetic sound of the students answering together signifies their connection as they are able to participate simultaneously and successfully.2. Early in his time at the Irish school, Joseph felt isolated and disconnected.3. By the end of the film, Joseph had found a way to belong among his Irish classmates, but this connection was not forged in the same way as his connection to his African peers. While the Irish children bond over imitating their teacher, the African children were unwaveringly respectful.This demonstrates that Josephs experience of belonging changed over
Perceptions of belonging vary between individuals.Consider how each of the following people feelsabout belonging. Do they belong? What are theircriteria for belonging? What are their consequencesfor not belonging?• Joseph• Seth• Teacher
For some, conformity and belonging are synonymous.The Irish class teacher feels a sense of belongingwhen her world is disciplined and ordered. Herrepeated instructions “Hands in the air” is a motifthat indicates the childrens’ surrender as raisedhands is usually associated with surrender. Thechildren are not valued as individuals (like themigrants in many poems), but are required toconform similar to the students of St Patrick’sCollege. For Joseph, this behaviour is particularlydamaging as he would associate it with violence anddanger before conformity.
A lack of belonging can leavea person weak or vulnerable.Joseph’s obvious discomfort in the new classroommakes him a target for the class bully, ChristianKelly. Christian’s dialogue towards Joseph isderogatory and provocative. Christian addressesJoseph as “Live Aid” insinuating that he is a charitycase. He also highlights Joseph’s cultural differencevia the rhetorical question “Do they know itsChristmas?” This sets Joseph apart from his newclassmates because he has different traditions.Christian also uses a threatening tone in hisrepeated warnings, “You’re dead”.
A lack of understanding of the community one isentering into can limit their opportunity to belong. Joseph clearly does not understand the community he is entering into when he begins at the Irish school. This is demonstrated through the use a point of view shot as he surveys the classroom for the first time, coupled with the use of shallow focus. The point of view shot allows the responder to empathise with Joseph’s fear and alienation from the class group, as they are seated together and he is alone. The shallow focus further emphasises his lack of understanding, as the new environment seems blurry and unreadable.
A common understandingstrengthens an individual’s sense of belonging.Joseph and his father shared a strong connectionand common understanding. A midshot of hisfather’s face as he was led out of the schoolhouseimplored Joseph to stay silent and hidden. Joseph,although understandably distressed, obeyed. Thiscommon understanding saved Joseph’s life.Common understanding also exists at the end of thefilm between Joseph, Christian and Seth (seedetailed analysis of Clip Three)
Strong relationships with others areessential for a true sense of belonging. The significance of relationships for Joseph is highlighted by the stark lack of these relationships for the majority of the film. It is not until the final scene, when the three boys are depicted in a midshot, standing shoulder to shoulder, that Joseph feels any sense of connection to his peers. This stems from a common goal, the joking at the expense of the teacher. It is conveyed through the close- up of Joseph’s face as he laughs at his Seth’s “She thinks she’s robbing a bank, and then at his own imitation of his teacher. This is also significant because it is the first time that Joseph has spoken in the Irish setting.
The past can present a barrier for belonging in the present.For Joseph, his past is something that he is constantlyreminded of. He experiences flashbacks to his time as astudent in Africa. The high colour saturation andtraditional musical score used in these scenes indicatethat Joseph felt happy and at ease in that environment.On the other hand, the washed out lighting andJoseph’s silence at school in Ireland indicate that hedoes not feel a sense of belonging in Ireland, and insteadescapes to the happier memories of his past.The significance of his past is also evident when the pastand present collide in the simultaneous occurrence of themilk container hitting Joseph and the gunshot.
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