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Little Things, The (2004)

George is alone on her fourteenth birthday, having been rejected by her mother and chased out of the local mall by security. Miserable and lonely, she invites her six-year-old neighbour, Tama, to come round for cake and bourbon. On discovering it’s her birthday he sneaks off to wrap a tennis ball – perhaps his only possession – to present it as a gift. This simple act of kindness breaks through George’s defences: she begins to weep. Tama tries to cheer her up by putting on music and dancing around. George can offer him a weak smile; it’s the little things that count.

Classroom Activities

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Questions

  • Who is the main character in this film? How do we know that?

  • What age do you think the main character is?

  • Name the different locations George tries to escape to.

  • Does this film remind you of similar experience in your own life?

  • How important is shopping to modern life?

  • How important is music to you?

  • Why do you think the film is called ‘The Little Things’?

Watching

  • Discuss how sound creates meaning in moving image texts. Cover the screen and listen only to the opening of the soundtrack. What do pupils think the film will be about? Encourage predictions and explanations.

  • Watch the opening sequence. Do the predictions change?

  • How many times and in how many ways do we hear the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune? What effect does the tune have on George and on us as viewers?

  • Play the first minute of the film. Discuss what devices have been used to mark George as the main protagonist? (for instance, draw out that the camera follows George; she sits higher in the frame than the other girl, who sits on a crate; the camera takes George's point of view, looking down on her friend; we see close-ups of George but not her friend).

  • Show the title sequence of the film and the production credits at the end. Ask whether this film is a cinema or TV text. Is it a drama or a documentary? Encourage pupils to give reasons for their responses. Does anyone have thoughts about who the film is aimed at? This could lead to a discussion about film production, marketing and distribution (for example, who makes a film, finances and distributes it can affect the interests it represents and the way these are presented to the audience).

  • Watch the film up to where George flings her skirt onto the washing line. Pause it there. Ask the class, in pairs, to list the devices used to demonstrate the girl’s isolation. Look for different shot types, composition and story events.

  • Watch the sequence at the washing line. We see four different shots: a long shot of the girl; the view from the balcony; a close up of the girl; and the view up to the man. Discuss why the filmmaker chose those shots, in that sequence. You could let pupils think of questions they would ask the director to help them find the answer(s), and then choose one student to role-play the director in the hot-seat.

Analysing

  • Ask pupils in pairs to list the little things in life that they value; list three things that they talk about with their friends.

  • Watch the pre-title opening sequence. Ask students how this compares with their own experience of spending time with friends.

  • Ask pupils to list the places they go to/spend time with their friends; how they would describe these places in terms of the music and environment. Then ask how they would film one of the places. Consider time of day, weather, camera positions, perspectives, movement and sound - diegetic and non-diegetic. Ask students to write the words and phrases on sticky notes to make a word wall for future use.

  • Play the whole film to the end. Then ask pupils to write one sentence explaining what the film is about.

  • Write a character profile of the main character George, focusing on her home/family life, what kind of person she is, what problems she faces and how she feels about them.

  • Look in detail at the four main locations (pupils could work in groups, one group for each location): the yard; the house; the mall; the record shop. Discuss how does each location contributes to the development of the narrative.

  • Discuss feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Creative

  • After viewing the sequence at the end on the settee with George and Tama, hot-seat a pupil as George (or Tama) and invite the class to ask questions to explore the thoughts going on in the character’s head at that moment.

  • Translate the film into a newspaper article that highlights the issues of child neglect.

  • Follow this with a special report for a feature in a news broadcast (TV or radio). Plan and direct the news broadcast and decide on what methods would be appropriate to reach a chosen target audience.

  • Carry out a walk of consciousness to re-enact various scenes from the film (e.g. the scene where George returns to the mall while everyone else is leaving, or the scene where she goes back to the empty house and finds the card). Position students in two lines facing each other; one side is positive, the other side is negative. As George walks down the centre, students voice the thoughts they think are going through George’s head.

  • Write a poem or short story titled ‘My Favourite Birthday’ or ‘The Little Things’.

  • Using the library and internet, research life in New Zealand and Maori culture. Compile a PowerPoint presentation or moving image essay.

  • Choose pieces of music for a ‘mix-tape’ that would cheer George up.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-043-C
Resource Rights Holder The New Zealand Film Commission
Project Ref MVS-05
Year of Production 2004
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and English, Social studies, Religious and moral education
Who Catherine Fitzgerald (Producer), Reina Webster (Director, Writer)
Country of Origin New Zealand
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Neglect, Celebration, Isolation, Friendship, Family, Boredom
Clip Length 12:00