Archive for the ‘NZ Film’ Category

14 Films About New Zealand.

June 4, 2017

 Sam Neil, Sleeping Dogs (1977)


I tried to count all the feature films ever made in New Zealand but I have never been very good with numbers and got about halfway through the list before I lost my place. By the time I fumbled the third go I was over it so lets just say about 250 films have been made in New Zealand including television films and big screen feature films. This includes a handful of overseas productions that have been made entirely here and excludes dozens of others (mostly Hollywood and Bollywood) that have been partially made here.

The first feature was by Gaston Méliès brother of legendary pioneering French film director Georges Méliès (A Trip to the Moon 1902). The Méliès brothers were struggling financially and Gaston was sent out into the wider world in search of the exotic and hopefully a reversal of fortune. It didn’t work but Gaston managed to make three fictional narratives, one feature documentary and a series of documentary shorts.

The first of these was a film called Hinemoa (1913) of which no copies survive, but it’s the example that matters here. Gaston inspired the locals and in 1914 the first NZ film proper was made. This was also called Hinemoa and was based on the same story about a Maori princess and her lover. That we made any movies at all so early on is a miracle in itself considering the lack of population, resources and technology but that’s Kiwi’s for you – always keen to try new things using whatever is at hand.

It took until the 1980s for the industry to fully engage and another 20 years for it to build up a full head of steam. These days it is a major industry and is pumping out a regular diet of art, box office and blockbuster, some of it successful, some not.

As for the best of this New Zealand film, I am offering a subjective list that is mostly way off beam with the mainstream of thinking on the subject. A good friend, an authority in fact, thinks my Kiwi favourites are mostly ludicrous but to be fair, while his list is politically ‘correct’ it is also hard work as in “bloody hell, these films are difficult to watch.” We agree to disagree.

Except for Once Were Warriors nothing from the nations ‘go to’ agency – ‘New Zealand on Screen’ – is on my list. ‘New Zealand on Screen’ is a taxpayer-funded archive of all things film and television and the essential guide to New Zealand’s screen heritage.


NZ on Screen – List of Essential New Zealand Films:


Goodbye Pork Pie (1981)

Smash Palace (1981)

Utu (1983)

Vigil (1984)

The Piano (1993)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Once Were Warriors (1994)

Whale Rider (2002)




14 Films About New Zealand.


Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1983).

Dairy farmer Arthur Allen Thomas is accused of murdering his neighbours Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. The police can’t prove it so fix the evidence and have Thomas put away. Years of re-trails and government commissions follow before Thomas is finally set free and richly compensated.

For almost a decade this story gripped the nation and the whole sordid affair is neatly summed up in a film renowned film critic Roger Ebert called “remarkable”. The case has never been solved.






Bad Blood (1982).

Dairy farmer Stanley Graham is under pressure. He snaps and starts shooting people. Seven bodies later and Graham’s rampage is over. Based on actual events from the summer of 1941 this economical portrait of a man being undone by paranoia is a triumph for both British director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Aussie actor Jack Thompson (Graham).

PS No accident that two of films on this list are set on dairy farms. Dairy is our biggest brand and the farm can be an interesting place. Worth a look is fantasy/romance The Price of Milk (2000) and sheep farming drama Mahana (2016). The latter features the endlessly reliable Temuera Morrison (Jake the Muss from Once Were Warriors).






Out Of The Blue (2006)

In 1998 a man wrestling with demons and paranoia starts shooting the people of Aramoana. David Grey prowls about the village taking pot shots at pursuing police while locals hide as best they can.

Harrowing and intense, this ‘based on actual events’ thriller, is a formative example of ‘the cinema of unease’, a term coined by Kiwi film star Sam Neil to describe the nations brooding film style.




Once Were Warriors (1994).

‘Jake The Muss’ is disenfranchised and drinking heavily. His emotional state is precarious, his temper is explosive and his shell-shocked family is riding his chaotic wake, their heads barely above water.

We flocked to the cinema in our droves to see the worst of ourselves writ large on the big screen. It was huge success critically, culturally and financially. Director Lee Tamahori turned New Zealand cinema on its head and actor Temuera Morrison gave the performance of a lifetime. This is not just a great NZ film; this is great cinema.




What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999)

Though not the cinematic powerhouse of Once Were Warriors, sequel What Become of the Broken Hearted has its moments. Jake has calmed down but still struggles with demons and misdemeanours. When his past stands up and slaps him in the face one day he finds himself at a turning point. On offer is opportunity for redemption and he is of two minds. Despite its occasional slide into predictability the film has enough heart to carry it through to a satisfying conclusion.




Forgotten Silver (1995)

Peter Jackson (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) is a force of nature but before the big Hollywood blockbusters came a whole other career that includes a couple of splatter films, a musical helmed by foul mouthed puppets and art-cinema classic Heavenly Creatures, based on another ‘true life’ Kiwi murder.

The killing narrative, it seems, is a right of passage in Kiwi film and Jackson’s done it twice. Controversial The Lovely Bones (2009) was poorly received but it has its defenders including me.

Documentary Forgotten Silver explores the life of pioneering Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie whose achievements included the invention colour and sound film. But there is more, so much more. McKenzie, it appears was a towering genius, confirming the unspoken truth about NZ, that we are indeed a special and blessed people.

It turned out to be a well-executed hoax that left many red-faced and others outraged. It is my favourite Jackson and joke aside, it is a well-made film.




The Locals (2003).

The Waikato is better known as the land that powers the nations behemoth Dairy Industry but it has also been the locale for two of the more interesting films made in this country. The regions capital serves as the backdrop for Geoff Murphy’s 1985 sci-fi mystery The Quiet Earth and the bucolic farmland is the canvas for Greg Page’s supernatural thriller The Locals.

Page migrated to the region from further South in his late youth and cut his teeth making music videos for Hamilton city bands. The Locals is the only feature film in his catalogue but sums up the regions landscape, atmosphere and culture with a clarity no one else has yet too match.

Page: “We wrapped the film and while we were in post-production I went off to see this new movie everyone was talking about and it had the same kind of twist ending as ‘The Locals’. I had been beaten to it.” He was talking about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense.

The Locals is a smartly executed film full of ironic Kiwi sensibility. The soundtrack features superstar Waikato rockers The Datsuns and it flies by at a rapid rate of knots. Much like the Director himself. Criminally underrated it is well deserving of rediscovery and adulation.




The Devil Dared Me To (2007).

The dominant feature of Kiwi film humour is a strain of ironic absurdism not unlike that which you might find in Irish films and when you consider that some six hundred thousand out of a population of four and an half million claim Irish ancestry this seems a reasonable supposition.

As for the narrative: Stuntman Randy Campbell has a dream, he wants to become the world’s greatest stuntman by becoming the first person to leap across Cook on a motorcycle. Before his dream can be realised numerous obstacles have to overcome aka a classic hero’s quest. Base, absurdist, cheesy and surreal The Devil Dared Me Too is as warming as a petrol station pie on a cold day.





What We Do In The Shadows (2014).

Writer Director Taika Waititi has had a phenomenal run at the NZ box office and his films Boy (2010) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) are the two biggest ever-grossing NZ films respectively.

What we do in the Shadows, made in collaboration with Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), was also a big hit and possibly one of the best examples of the dry, ‘straight-faced’ style that dominates Kiwi humour. More cohesive and refined than The Devil Dared Me To it was an instant cult classic. Perhaps our best ‘cult’ product since Hamiltonian Richard O’Brien thought up The Rocky Horror Picture Show back in the late 1960s.




Desperate Remedies (1993).

This is not the kind of film I would choose to see off my own bat but when I asked Geoff Lealand (Associate Professor Film and Media Studies University of Waikato and all-round doyen of all thing cinematic in NZ) what his favourite Kiwi film was he said this.

A surreal psychodrama set in early colonial New Zealand it tastes like a ‘golden age’ MGM spectacular directed by Stanley Kubrick by way of Orson Welles with Ken Russell in as the production supervisor. The result is unique, imagine ‘splatter era’ Peter Jackson on opium. A grand testament to the tightly guarded madness lurking beneath the Kiwi facade.




Worlds Fastest Indian (2005).

Roger Donaldson was born in Australia and migrated to New Zealand (which is confusing in itself as the migration trend is mostly the other way around) and made two defining local films: Sleeping Dogs’ (1977) and Smash Palace (1981).

After a long Hollywood stint he returned to his adopted homeland for The World’s Fastest Indian’ in 2005. Invercargill Burt Munro’s and his Indian go to America and breaks’ a number of motorcycle speed records on the salt flats of Utah along the way. Welshman Anthony Hopkins manages a reasonable facsimile of the Kiwi accent while leading a charming Biopic that is as honest as the day is long.




Sleeping Dogs (1977).

Roger Donaldson’s first film arrived on the scene at the most opportune moment. New Zealand was in moving headlong into a period of social upheaval and many old values were being asked hard questions and found wanting. Authoritarian Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (the model for the PM in the film?) was leading the rear guard action and this usually peaceful and bucolic land was getting restless.

Smith (a somewhat startled looking Sam Neil in his first leading role) is a typically self-possessed Kiwi bloke reluctantly drawn into the fight against a dictatorial fascist government determined to maintain the hard line.

Based on C.K Stead’s 1971 novel Smith’s Dream, this is a parable that set the nation alight and allowed us to imagine ourselves in a different way. Paradigms shifted, new doors were cast wide open and the modern NZ Film Industry was born. What followed was beautiful chaos.





Angel At My Table (1993).

The strange life of NZ writer Janet Frame is explored with inventive flair by Kiwi acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano).

A critical and commercial success this biopic is a riveting portrait of an artist struggling to swim with the tide. Rather than go on, here is a poem by Frame written in the last years of her life. One of the better meditations I have encountered on the subject of ageing and death. The film maintains a narrative of similar quality.


When the Sun Shines More Years than Fear
– Janet Frame

When the sun shines more years than fear
when birds fly more miles than anger
when sky holds more bird
sails more cloud
shines more sun
than the palm of love carries hate,
even then shall I in this weary
seventy-year banquet say, Sunwaiter,
Birdwaiter, Skywaiter,
I have no hunger,
remove my plate.





Honourable Mention:


Came A Hot Friday (1985).

I was not taken by it at all when I saw it many decades ago but many of my peers rate it so out of respect for them and my love of all things Billy T James I have added to the list with the intention of watching it again soon. Based on a novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Came a Hot Friday concerns a couple of Grfiters getting up to all kinds of mischief in Taranaki.

Something of a rogue, Morrieson was not well considered in his Taranaki hometown of Hawera and after he died they pulled down his house to make way for a McDonald’s hoping to expunge his memory from the record. In reality all the locals managed was make Morrieson more famous. All four of Morrison’s novels have been adapted for film, as have two of his short stories.

The film features the late great Billy T James as The Tainuia Kid. According to legend James’s was the Tainuia kid from the moment he arrived on set and remained that way till the shoot was over. James’s ‘Prankster’ character is a testament to the man’s subversive comedic genius.



Billy T James as the Tainuia Kid



Film Review: Mahana

September 24, 2016


    Akuhata Keefe as Simeon Mahana

Mahana (Temuera Morrison) rules his whanau with an iron fist but one of the grandchildren Simeon (an affecting performance by Akuhata Keefe) is not content to settle for the status quo and his probing questions begin to threaten the stability of clan Mahana.

From the team that brought us the turning point in modern New Zealand cinema ‘Once Were Warriors’ comes a new film about being Maori in Pakeha land. ‘Mahana’ plays out over the last days of the 1950s on the North Islands East Cape. This was a time of flourishing rural communities dedicated to the task of harvesting wool and sheep meat. It was a time of tough men and hard working women and when the divide between Maori and Pakeha (sadly only lightly explored) was more pronounced.

Writer Whiti Ihimaera (‘Whale Rider’) draws on his own childhood to create a sense of time and place and if you have ever read any of his autobiographical work you will recognize the characters and social landscape straightaway. Having mapped it out he leaves it to fellow East Coaster Lee Tamahori to bring it to life.

Tamahori is a practiced and talented director (check out the opening car chase scene – it is stunner) and a fine visual artist. The vistas are beautiful, the visual set pieces are inspired and the period detail evocative (and through the course of the film he takes the time to explore his own childhood love of American cinema adding some nice flavour and insight) but this film about intergenerational angst and social conformity feels a little underplayed at times.

Yes, it’s a bit thin places and some of the characterisation settles for one-dimensional when it required a touch more care. It is all a little formulaic with something of the Disney about it though that company might have shied from something as confronting as the historical rape upon which clan Mahana is built.  This is not the social statement of ‘Once Were Warriors’ (for fans, Tem does employ something of his trademark ‘explosive temper’ to shocking effect) but it is a diverting exploration of family powers structures and social conservatism. Engaging and often quite moving (I shed a tear at the right places) ‘Mahana’ is a worthwhile edition to the cannon of those local films dedicated to examining our nations cultural history. Essential it is not but may trigger some interest among new generations to whom 1950s New Zealand is a alien planet.

The Greg Page Story or “How a Chubby Nerd can make it in the Real World.”

February 21, 2016

D4 Ladies Man shoot (directed in drag)

Ok, you might not know the name but if you are any kind of fan of New Zealand music you will certainly know his work. Greg Page, or Pagey as he is known, has made 91 music videos over the last 23 years for a variety of local artists from The Datsuns through to Six60 but that’s only part of the story. When he is not putting images to music, the star of the 2011 TV Reality show ‘Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger’ and the former voice of Vodafone (5 years) paints, plays drums (Rumpus Room, Paul Martin’s World War Four), makes television commercials, designs band posters…. oh and once even made a feature film.

Grinning from ear to ear Greg Page answers my query as to his birth date with “Osama stole my birthday” (9/11/72) another of the droll one-liners that roll of his tongue with abandon. Page is tangential, his mind leaping about from one unrelated subject to the next, making oddball connections and spinning off yarns like there is no tomorrow. I want to nail him down, but that would be a shame, so I sit back and do the best I can scribbling notes and asking questions that fly right past him.

Page is a proudly born working class boy from Palmerston North who sketched and tapped (the drumming thing) his way through Freyberg High (the same High School his more sedate parents attended) and after finishing 7th form went to work at a restaurant called the ‘Fisherman’s Table’ for a year. The owner nicknamed him the ‘Turtle Ninja’ because “he was a small and fast moving demon” who proved himself to be versatile and adaptable employee.

He remains grateful to the Chinese family who owned ‘The Table’ for teaching him how to work hard and maintain a smile even when ‘dog tired’, an art that has served him well in his subsequent career making music videos and TV adverts; juggling tight time and money budgets, ornery film crews, demanding clients and reluctant performers.

The sketching proclivity led him Auckland’s UNITEC where he studied painting for a year. His tutor Peter Fahey suggested he go to Hamilton and enrol at the new Media Arts dept at WINTEC. “It’s a young and dynamic school, one that might better suit your energy and inclinations.” It turned out to be one of those grand moments of delightful synchronicity as Hamilton’s Hark Records was getting underway and had several NZ on Air Music Video grants under its belt and no one to make them happen. Page stumbled into the label via his mates the local alt-band Inchworm who had recently won the top prize at the Waikato Rock Awards.

Their prize included time at the Hark owned Zoo Recording Studio and they bought Page in to make the video for the song they had recorded and once he was in the door that was the end of any formal education. He began churning out videos for the new label while carefully keeping a foot in the door at WINTEC so he could continue to use the equipment but the time demands meant he could not complete his course work and graduate, besides once the word got around that there was a video maker around town, Page’s fate was sealed.

During his final year at WINTEC (1994) he made 10 music videos including Knightshade’s comeback single ‘Television Eyes’, Inchworms ‘Come Out’, Throw’s ‘All Different Things’ for Christchurch Label Failsafe, and a video that remains something of a personal favourite, ‘Food’ made for Hamilton indie-band 5 Girls.


5 Girls: Food


Knightshade: Television Eyes


Inchworm: Come Out


That same year he was caught surreptitiously filming Shihad at a University of Waikato Orientation gig. Hauled up by the bands manager Gerald Dwyer, Page showed him the footage and a suitably impressed Dwyer introduced him to the band. Based on that meeting they later asked him asked him to make a video for their song ‘Yr head is a Rock,’ (1996).


Shihad Yr Head Is A Rock


The one thing that all these videos had in common (with the exception of Inchworms ‘Come Out’) was that they were all stop-start animations made using plasticine, a style that was fast becoming Page’s speciality. In 1994 he also released a short film called ‘Decaff’ based on a subversive claymation character called Decaff who was in short, Page’s alter ego.




Page is a nice guy, eager to please and somewhat naive but underneath lurks an anarchistic social commentator and frustrated bad boy. ‘Decaff’ was attached to Kevin Smith’s hit movie ‘Clerk’s’ for its NZ run and as a result of the exposure became something of a cult sensation. This brought him to the attention of advertising giants Saatchi and Saatchi who commissioned him to make a short for ‘NZ on Air’ celebrating a centenary of NZ cinema.


NZ Centenary Of Cinema


His 1996 short ran alongside a short made by John O’Shea, the godfather of the modern NZ film industry or as Saatchi’s put it: “A hundred years of NZ cinema through the eyes of the nations oldest and youngest filmmakers.” This broke him into the world of televisual advertising and he has since made so many 100s of adverts that he has lost count. Page: “I don’t make the big ads, I make the ones that run either side of them, the bread and butter ads. I am a workman like ad- maker, a tradesman builder. The camera is my hammer and I will build anything that is required.”

The next few years are all go and include a two year paid stint as Breakfast host on Hamilton’s UFM (1998-99), the commercial station that picked up the frequency vacated by the University of Waikato student radio station Contact after it was shut down. For both years his breakfast show rated third in the city and he is credited along with his co-host Dean Ballinger (Mobile Stud Unit) for creating the phrase ‘The Tron’. On a quest to find another slogan for the city other than the much mocked ‘Hamilton, Where It’s Happening’ a listener phoned in with the phrase ‘Hamiltron, City Of The Future’ which Page and Ballinger shortened down to ‘The Tron’. The rest is history.

In 1995 Pagey a self-taught drummer (“I learned by watching Inchworm drummer Rob Talsma do his thing”) joined his first band, Hamilton alt-rockers Rumpus Room. Otherwise made up of the three Newth Brothers Andrew, Scott and Kent (whose previous projects included pioneering Hamilton electronica act Love and Violence) Rumpus Room is still going today and Page though domiciled in Henderson (“Bigger Hamilton”) still makes regular runs down to The Tron for gigs and band practices but perhaps his most famous musical outing was with Paul Martin’s metal outfit World War Four.

At the 2005 edition of metal guru Paul Martin’s famed annual Gemini Party, (a big event on The Tron’s social calendar where Gemini’s and their friends get to together to party and listen to metal on June 1st), Page took a deep breath and approached Martin and asked if he could try out for the vacant drummer stool in Martin’s World War Four. The pair hit it off and he spent 6 years (2005-11) on the World War Four team and remembers opening for Black Sabbath with Dio at the G-Taranaki Festival as the absolute highlight. “I learnt a lot form being in World War Four. The experience (especially playing for Motorcycle gangs) made me less naïve about how the world worked.”

There were other bands including a regular spot as fill-in drummer for legendary Hamilton satirical Punk band MSU (Mobile Stud Unit), Malestrum, a fake Norwegian metal band that was rolled out for various events including the annual Hamilton Fringe Festival and some time with Auckland Prog. Rockers Ishtar.


Rumpus Room: JBS


Rumpus Room at the Porch recording Studio (Greg Page on Drums)


It was while driving back to Henderson after a Hamilton gig in 2000 that Page saw 3 kids standing on the side of the road at Gordonton on the cities Northern edge. “They sort of appeared out of the fog and just stood there staring and it scared the shit out of me.” 3 years later he had turned the moment into a film script. Making a feature film had long been on the ‘to do’ list and he had vowed that if he had not made one by the age of 30 he would give it all up and go truck driving. Three weeks before his 30th the film commission gave him $2 million and work on the first (and so far only) NZ feature film to be shot entirely in the Waikato was underway. “It busted my cherry and made me into a man,” says Page of the experience.

It was also an opportunity to showcase the Hamilton music that he loved so much (Inspector Moog, The Datsuns, MSU). “I had made music videos for eight of the eleven artists featured on the soundtrack. The other three bands are all my friends from Hamilton on whom some of the film’s characters are very loosely based.” ‘The Locals’ was made using proper old school film trickery (no computer generated effects) and stunts were often done “not strictly by the book” (e.g. sometimes safety harnesses got in the way of a decent car stunt and were dispensed with). It was a Kiwi DIY experience that Page remembers as “being scary as hell what with all that money to look after and 40 people on the crew who depended on you to make the right decisions.”

The film didn’t exactly set the box-office alight but it did get an international distribution deal and through regular TV screenings (in the US) and appearances at festivals ‘The Locals’ has long maintained a solid cult audience, both for the story and the music. Months before the release of ‘The Locals’ Page went to see a film that had been setting the international box-office alight. Called ‘The Sixth Sense’ he slumped at the big reveal in the closing scene. “I thought I had created something special with the ending in ‘The Locals’ and there it was, the exact same thing in this other movie. I had been beaten to it.”


The Locals trailer


During a stint as Guest tutor at WINTEC 2010 he told the students “I broke all the rules and I urge you to do the same. Use the gear, (you have paid for it) and just get out there and do shit,” which pretty much sums up the Greg Page method. His advise on how to get a good performance from a band on a video shoot? “Taking a band out of their comfort zone gets the best out of them (in other words torturing them heh, heh).”

Some of his more memorable shoots include ‘Dominoe’ for Fur Patrol; “ I made them stand in a swimming pool full of water for hours. It was slow torture but produced a great performance,” much like the shoot for Betchadupa’s ‘Sleepy News’. “I made them stand in fake rain for several hours. It was bloody hard for them but they delivered. I could not get LMNOP happening for the ‘Verona’ shoot so ended up sticking them in an industrial ice-cream freezer wearing t-shirts. It was minus 28% C and it proved very motivational.

The D4 wanted to emulate the New York Dolls for their song ‘Ladies Man’ but felt uncomfortable dressing in NY Doll’s style drag so I dressed up in drag as well to relax them”. Another D4 shoot, this time for ‘Exit To The City’ proved especially memorable and “filled with magic I have not been able to emulate since.

The band were positioned in the back of a van and I instructed the driver to take the corners ‘as hard as she could’, and I told the band – ‘this might be rough’. It was rough. If you look closely you might see Vaughn (bass) fall over and smash his guitar stock into Dion’s (guitar/vocals) head.”


The D4: Exit To The City


Page: My most recent clip (2015) was for SJD’s ‘I Wanna be Foolish” and it is no better or worse than my first clips and making it reminded me why I love making music videos. My motivation? I make music videos to flex my creative muscle and be free and silly.

I have tried all kinds of things over the years with music videos but I keep returning to my first love, animation. It’s a grind but it lubricates my problem solving instinct and keeps me fresh and original. I always step sideways and inside out when faced with an animation problem.”

When he isn’t on set Pagey can be found hard at work in his home studio painting (he maintains a prodigious output) and designing posters for bands. “There have been hundreds, all made by ‘old school’ methods, i.e. no photoshopping,” and if an artist/band has only a small budget for a video, Page will often do it on his own in his shed using whatever he has at hand including his smart phone. His next goal is to reach the 100 music videos milestone and fingers crossed, another feature film.

I ask to name his favourite music videos?

“The two P-Money clips ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Angels’ because we shared a similar work ethic and visual aesthetic and we worked well together despite the music not being my usual thing. I was at a peak when I made those. They have lots of ideas and they seem less forced than some other work I have done.”


P Money: Falling Down ft Milan Borich


P Money: Angels


Page has made several videos for The Datsuns including their first, 2002’s ‘Super Gyration’ (shot in an Onehunga Panel Beaters shop) but he ranks the video for their 2006 song ‘Waiting For Your Time To Come’ as one of his most special. “The Datsuns let me to do whatever I wanted for this project and the result is Greg Page through and through.

It was painted frame by frame and I just got lost in it (and I absorbed so much paint in the process that it kept me awake for 6 straight days heh heh). It was one of those magic clips that just made itself. I was low and not busy when I did that one and it reawakened my love of what i do.”


The Datsuns: Waiting For Your Time To Come


“I chose SJD’s ‘I Wanna Be Foolish’ because it was the made using the same free form process as The Datsuns ‘Waiting For Your Time To Come’. It’s a method I really enjoy and I appreciated SJD’s trust throughout the project.”


SJD: I Wanna Be Foolish


Greg Page Quotes:
“Inspiration comes to me when I stop trying to be like others and also when I’m in the shower.”

“Cooking is exactly the same as Directing a shoot, it’s all about pressure.”

“Being a Director means I get to do interesting stuff. It’s bloody hard at times but probably better than having a proper job.”

“The older I get the more I am becoming ‘Decaff’ my first animated character.”
“With age I’ve realised its ok to be good at your career and not be famous and rich.”

“Sometimes I want to quit directing but then I remember that I am not made for the normal world.”


The Making of The Datsuns Bad Taste









Film Review: The Dark Horse

January 11, 2015


The story of Genesis Potini has entered into common NZ folklore thanks to the success of The Dark Horse, a bio-flick exploring the life and times of this, until recently, unheralded chess prodigy.

A triumph at the local box office, the film has garnered rave reviews and is set for a big international rollout this year.

I missed it on the big screen but was very excited to find it in the new release section of my local DVD Rental Store the other day and sat down with friends to see what all the fuss was about.

Potini suffered from an extreme form of bipolar disorder, a condition defined by cyclical swings between states of elation and depression. Potini brief career as a champion chess player was undone by his inability to handle stress, a major trigger for his unfortunate predilections.

While Potini suffered greatly, he also possessed great gifts, not least of which was his ability to make great leaps of faith, and here lies the films great strength, its frank and profoundly insightful examination of an affliction that is often misconceived by outsiders. A condition marked by emotional pain and mental dysfunction but not without its benefits.

The film is centred on Potini’s struggles to maintain equilibrium while trying to manage familial and social relationships. The scenes illustrating the delusions that threaten to overwhelm Potini at any moment are harrowing, as are the scenes illustrating his extreme emotional responses to the events that define the movie: the gang affiliations of his immediate family and the local chess club, which is more a secure oasis for children from troubled homes than a serious educational facility.

It is within the secure confines of the chess club that we encounter the films most poignant moments: Potini giving the enthusiastic children validation and direction and inflaming their spirits with dreams of possibilities.

The amateur cast of local Gisborne kids are rowdily joyous and leap at the new frontiers Potini’s vision offers. In these moments I sat grinning, reminiscing on the pleasures of childhood discovery and remembering the mentors who gave direction to my own youthful exuberance.

With Potini’s immediate family we find ourselves entering “Once Were Warriors’ territory, simmering violence laced with hopelessness, a bleak landscape Potini, (once again demonstrating his unique gifts), navigates with courage as he seeks to rescue his young nephew from the dire fate of a life bound to the East Coast Gang’s and their underworld criminality.

As the film progresses Potini leads his young charges and their dubious caregivers toward the National Youth Chess Championships in Auckland, and while the film threatens to spill over into deliriously sentimental Disney territory it never quite does, holding it back just enough for us to laugh, smile and share the joy without having to endure lashings of sickly sweet Hollywood type nonsense.

Despite the distressing narrative backdrop that underscores much of the movie, in the end it is family style film: educational, informative, inspiring and deeply felt.

Cliff Curtis in the lead role is astonishing. Phrases like ‘tour de force’ spring to mind, as do words like ‘commitment’ and ‘conviction’. Though Potini left this life early, Curtis’s performance has done his legacy a great service. If this were indeed a Hollywood film, the line ‘Cliff Curtis and Oscar’ would be on many lips.

I might quibble with some aspects of the film; a little more judicious script editing might have been in order, but really, what the hell. This is another great NZ story well told.

Movies with heart this sincere are few and far between.