b y A N D R E W E. C O L A R U S S O
New Boy (2007), directed by Steph Green and based on a short story of the same name by Roddy Doyle (a Booker award winning Irish novelist) portrays a brief episode in the life of a young Rwandan transplant during his first day at his new school. With close up shots and touching flashbacks the "new boy", named Joseph (Olutunji Ebun-Cole), is gradually fleshed out into a full character. Because it's a short film, many of the other characters do not have space enough within the narrative to become anything more than catalysts for the development of the protagonist's character/self-hood. Even still, each of the players in this 11 minute film have distinct personalities--the cinematography (P.J. Dillon) and the gripping humanity of Doyle's narrative gives everyone in the movie a sufficient amount of mystery and gray space.
It's almost as though the viewer is experiencing the first day of school, with Joseph, all over again. The close shots and tight angles, frequently over the shoulder, heighten anxiety, first-day jitters and the feeling that at any moment something could pop-off. I found myself considering the group dynamic immediately--and it became clear to me, again, why school was such a pain in the ass. It's hard enough to learn the "times-table" without having to worry about attaining some status within a new group.
Another incredibly fascinating aspect of the film is the way race is portrayed. Because they're students in grade school we're given a sort of naive, though budding, sense of race and racial difference. Not since "In America" (Jim Sheridan) and "The Crying Game" (Neil Jordan) have I seen a film from the Eire with such heart and sensitivity to matters of race. Also worth noting, the film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009.
In short, New Boy is a film worth watching. It's warm and charming, without being obnoxious and the acting, primarily captured in these close, intimate shots, was enough to make me tear up. 7/10
8 Bits (2010), from what I've gathered, is a French production voiced in English and set in a mysterious digital realm. This is a movie for video game lovers. In fact, it's a 7 minute paean to the history of gaming. There is hardly any dialogue (only one actor is credited)--what really stands out here is the digital mis-en-scene evoking nearly every classic video game you've ever (or never) played. This film has more in common with a video game than it does with the traditional elements of a short film. Essentially, it's a fun little ride that could have been a graduate thesis. It definitely banks on the viewer's nostalgia for an 8 bit, 2D platformer world of video games. I'd guess the prime viewing demographic to be somewhere between the ages of 22 and 39, + or - 3.
The protagonist is clearly the protagonist (a 30-something couch potato with a walk man and a five o'clock shadow) questing to rescue his mute and captured demoiselle from a tyrannical villain with filed teeth, a bad ass (if at times unintelligible) voice and an ill-fitted suit. Perspective shifts between 3D and 2D making for interesting little cutscenes. Credit must be given to the design team--8 Bits is a visual feast. But the real bread and butter of this movie, what makes it really go, is the soundtrack. We're given an auditory feast of midi beats and sound effects that really bring to mind a sort of "golden age" of gaming--if ever there was one.
8 Bits is worth a watch. It's like a swag bag of sights and sounds. 6/10