Short Picks: “New Boy”

Written by Josh Litman September 19, 2011

We’ve all heard the classic adage that “size doesn’t matter”…but does time? Can a short film be just as compelling as a feature length one? The answer, in short, is YES – and in 1/20th of the time to boot! Welcome to Short Picks, where I (Josh Litman) will introduce you to a variety of shorts that you simply have to see. Rather than merely talk about them, I’m going to post these flicks right here on the site for your viewing pleasure! It’s unfortunate that so few people realize how impactful a short film can be. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to enlighten you. Enjoy!

Dealing with change…fitting in…cultural differences… These are just a few of the themes this incredible short touches on. Just be prepared to have a tissue on hand.

New Boy is an Irish short film that won Best Narrative Short at the 2008 Tribecca Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar. It’s easy to see why. The film centers on Joseph, the new kid in class. He also happens to be African. The film shifts between the present day class setting and a class day in Joseph’s past. The filmmakers work at paralleling the two points in time, showing us both the similarities and differences in setting and culture.

New Boy never forgets that the majority of its characters are children and, thankfully, they act as such. There’s the bully, the tattle-tale, the kid who doesn’t stop writing when he’s supposed to, etc. And, of course, there’s the new boy. Except, this new boy didn’t move to a new town/school because his dad got a new job or housing was cheaper in the new neighbourhood.

Something horrible happened in Joseph’s past to cause this life change. Unfortunately, Joseph is the new kid and is picked on regardless, and no one but Joseph (and the viewer) knows or comprehends his history.

The real success of this film is the subtle way in which it conveys Joseph’s hardship in the face of a new and not-entirely-welcoming setting. Being the new kid in class can be a horror unto itself, but add that to another kind of horror and you’ve got a heartbreaking scenario in front of you. Watching this film, you can’t help but empathize with Joseph.

One last thing to note is that New Boy is beautifully shot. Transitions between the past and present are flawless, and the film employs a fantastic use of depth of field throughout. New Boy is powerful, emotional viewing with a strong, yet simple message. If you weren’t convinced of the merits of short films beforehand, this film should certainly do it.

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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