Section A – Grade B Exemplar

Answer the question below, with detailed reference to specific examples, from the extract only.

Extract: Treme, Season 1, Episode 6, directed by Brad Anderson. Discuss the ways the extract constructs the representation of ethnicity using the following:

  • Camera shots, angles, movement and composition
  • Editing
  • Sound
  • Mise-en-Scène

Level 3 response

There is an obvious difference in ethnicities in this clip. We are introduced to the two different ethnic groups through panning shots of their location: a caravan park for the black people and a grand household for the white people. As the scene opens with a conversation between two poor black men, we are given a sense of their cramped conditions by the use of over the shoulder shots, and by using this technique the viewer is given a clear perspective of the small location of the men as it highlights their close proximity to each other. On the other hand in the second scene the conversation between the light skinned characters is shot almost entirely using dual shots, therefore we get an insight into their grand location and can see that they are relaxed and spread out across sofas and chairs in a large and decorative room. From the camerawork we can infer that black people are being represented as poor in contrast to the white people who are much more well off.

Secondly the content of the characters’ dialogue is very revealing and helps to highlight a clear contrast between the black and white characters. Although all characters have the New Orleans accent, the white people appear to have a much more formal dialect, using language such as “compelled” and “issues” along with the naming strategy “darling” and joking about the gambling game ‘Black Jack’. This illustrates that they are posh and well off in contrast to the dark skinned characters who, although they speak in more colloquial terms using phrases such as ‘wooo’, their dialogue often contains much less carefree subjects, focussing on racial issues, hospital visits and depression. This highlights the working class status of this race in comparison to the relaxed carefree lives of the upper class white people. The black people’s scenes are also often accompanied by a saxophone soundtrack playing soft rhythm and blues style jazz music that gives the scenes a soft and sad climate.

Mise-en-scène is another vitally important element when navigating between the two ethnic groups represented in this clip. The location of the white people is a grand house with ornate furniture, their costumes include sunglasses and bright clothing ranging from green to pink and their props include glasses of martinis and cigarettes. This is all clearly an upper class environment. This juxtaposes with the workshop location of the two black characters at the end of the clip. They sit at a wooden table and their props are made up of fabric and scissors, their hair and make-up is kept simple and natural and their costumes are plain clothing in pale blue and browns. This is clearly a lower class representation of black people.

Finally an editing technique used is that the black characters always seem to be shot in low-key lighting, often with shadows cast over their faces whereas the white characters are in a bright and well lit room. This suggests that the black characters live in a much harder and oppressed lifestyle in comparison to the white people who have freedom and clarity.

Commentary

The candidate begins the response well immediately analysing the extract through the use of setting as a part of the mise-en-scène.  This analysis is wordy and the candidate takes time to summarise the characteristics of the setting in relation to the Afro-American social group.  The response is developed next in relation to sound and dialogue and the candidate uses lots of key spoken words to demonstrate how dialogue and accents (in particular) reveal differences in characters status – through elaborated and restricted speech codes (3rd paragraph). 

Like many candidates within this exam session, ethnicity is tied with socio-economic status and this is used to the candidate’s advantage to demonstrate the differences of each ethnic group.  There is further mention of the use of diegetic music but this analysis needs developing further to explain why this diegetic jazz music is being used in construction of the representation of ethnicity.


The 2nd half of the candidate’s response offers highly proficient and developed analysis of mise-en-scène with evident detail explaining the status of ethnic groups.  This could be developed further in contrast to the white American middle class setting.  In the final part of the response the candidate addresses the technical feature of editing, however this is confused and erroneous as they discuss lighting rather than the specifics of editing.  A small amount of credit would be generated through the implied understanding of cross cutting in the candidate’s response here – although editing on the whole has been omitted in analysis.

Summary:  This is a proficient response, but requires development for a level four response.  The candidate’s essay ends abruptly and the paragraph on editing is actually about lighting.  Nonetheless there is enough evidence in analysis here to warrant a level 3 mark.

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