Friday, September 29, 2023

The New Boy: Politically, Spiritually and Religiously Australian

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“The New Boy” is a luminous work of art, cultural crossroads, faith, and magical realism.

During WWII, two Australian military officers captured an Aboriginal child fighting ferociously for freedom in the plains. They turn him to a nuns-run monastery in the middle of only God knows where to "westernize" him. In that remote facility, children were prepared to be incorporated into the workforce and produce goods for the international conflict.

Asan Reid plays extraordinarily well as  "The New Boy."

Newcomer Asan Reid plays extraordinarily well as “the boy with no name.” On the farm, everybody calls him New Boy. 

Even if no one trusts him, his noble inner force is ready to do good, including those who look at him differently and bully him. 

New Boy is connected to the world spiritually, to the land, and to all the creatures of the animal kingdom.

Sister Eileen is interconnected to the mystical side of the story. She is a liberal and unorthodox Catholic nun head of the convent. She is righteous and well-organized. Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett delivers an extraordinary performance as the spiritual leader of the peculiar and fascinating place. Her participation in this endearing film contains an extensive range of emotions, from leadership to vulnerability.

As this unique magical tale unfolds, the perfectly determined characters’ arc reflects the archetype. Their natural evolution and internal conflict, obsessions, goals, and adversities are easy to follow. 

The magic possessed by New Boy enlightens the story. The religious elements, for some, are symbols of inspiration, and for others, oppression, which makes anyone feel uneasy by the confrontation of both cultures visually and politically speaking.

“The New Boy” has a terrific cast, besides Cate Blanchett's lead and Asan Reid as the new boy, which includes Deborah Mailman as sweet Sister Mom and Wayne Blair as George.

Other outstanding works where children are deployed from their natural environment and placed in strange places where they suffer distress and isolation are, last year, Oscar nominee narrative short produced by Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón “Le pupulle,” “Cándida” written by Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, Oscar nominee Nicaraguan feature “Alsino and the Condor.” “Tigers are not Afraid” is a Mexican feature where orphan children from the war on drugs battle for survival in a dystopian land. New Zealand’s internationally successful road movie “Hunting for the Wilderpeople is a comedy in which a troubled kid runs to the wild with his step-grandfather, directed by Taika Waititi.

The director and cinematographer, Warwick Thornton (D.P. on “September of Shiraz,” “Samson & Delilah,” “Sweet Country”), was in charge of photographing “The New Boy” as well. Mr. Thornton presents a sumptuous and stunning visual work with vast, breathable landscapes and dramatic interiors, with chiaroscuros accentuating religious motives, giving the proper balance to this remarkable project based on the director's childhood experience.

“The New Boy” was shot in South Australia in the same region where Cate Blanchett started acting in the 1996 Australian movie “Parklands,” produced by her husband Andrew Upton. Twenty-five years later, Cate returns to her homeland, starring in this new period drama produced by her and her husband’s production company, Dirty Films.

A difference between the 1994 French film “Little Indian, Big City” and the 1997 American remake “Jungle to Jungle,” “The New Boy” maintains the purity of the boy’s nature until his soul gets corrupted by the religiosity of a baptism in the Catholic faith. The magical realism presented in the film is more intrinsic than in 2015, “Little Boy” by Alejandro Monteverde (“Sound of Freedom”).

“The New Boy” adds voices of diversity and inclusion, as in many other essential Australian projects, in which the country tries to amend its Colonial past with the aboriginal people to show an image of a harmonious blending of cultures to the world.

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