New Zealand films you must see
New Zealand has had its fair share of block buster movies. Created in our beautiful country and then beamed to big screens across the world. Peter Jackson is the man behind films such as Lord of the rings, The Hobbit and King Kong. Then there is Narnia that shows off some stunning locations and Avata that is teaming with special effects, expertly developed at Weta Work Shops in Wellington. That’s all sweet seeing what our small country can produce for the masses, but there are some brilliant movies that the rest of the world may never discover. The ones that show you the parts of New Zealand you don’t see in the travel brochures. They tell the inspirational stories that could easily go a miss. They give an insight into different parts of kiwi culture.
Once were warriors (1994)
This film gives a shockingly raw look into the world some people grew up in, in the poorer, rough parts of New Zealand. It is brutally real and doesn’t shy away from showing violence and abuse. Set in South Auckland, the film follows a troubled family showing moments of love and warmth that soon turn to heartbreaking violence and sadness.
Temuera Morrison’s portrail of “Jake the muss” is a powerful performance and the character has become a kiwi icon.
When it was released over 20 years ago it was hugely successful with one in three New Zealanders seeing it. A second film was later made “What becomes of the broken hearted”, but didn’t rate as highly.
This film is a comedy that follows Boy, an 11-year-old lovable character with a warm smile. The movie is set in 1984 on the East Coast of New Zealand. It show the character Boy finally getting a chance to get to know his father who has been absent most of his life. The problem is his dad is more interested in finding a bag of money he buried years ago.
The dark horse (2014)
Genesis Potini is a brilliant, but little know New Zealand hero and chess champion. His real life story has been compiled into an inspiring film by James Napier Robertson.
At a point in his life Genesis was champion chess player, but has spent the last few years in and out of mental institutions, trying to overcome severe bipolar disorder. Living with his gang associated brother and nephew doesn’t mix well with him. He joins a rough-as-guts chess club, with the idea of coaching the kids to the national chess championship. As the story unfolds, Gen has to navigate his way around being a leader, the conflict with his brother within the gang world and potentially devastating strife that breaks out between them over his nephew’s future,
The Dark Horse opened the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland and Wellington and then had its international premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014.
Whale rider (2002)
This is the story of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes). The film takes place at the East Coast town of Whāngārā where Pai challenges tradition and in the process embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. She goes through rejection and triumph on her journey to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognise.
Whale Rider had a decent amount of success worldwide and won the audience choice award at Sundance and Toronto.
Eagle vs shark
If Napolian Dynamite got you laughing, then you will love this film. It full of dry one liners that make you smile. It features Jemaine Clement who rose to fame in Flight of the Concords. The feature is an off beat comedy about two nerdy and slightly strange characters trying to find love. Jemaine plays Jarrod who is clueless that a shy fast-food cashier, Lily has a crush on him. A relationship blossoms at a dress up party, but is tested by Jarrod’s obsession with a childhood nemesis.
Goodbye pork pie (1981)
This was a hugely popular low-budget, New Zealand block buster. The story follows Gerry who steals a yellow mini from a car rental company in Kaitaia and heads south. He meets John, who wants his wife back and a hitchhiker named Shirl. Before you know it they are driving to Invercargill to find her, with the cops hot on their trail. There is plenty of hair-raising driving and trickery to avoid the police. The “Blondini gang” are soon hailed as folk hero’s.
Heavenly creatures (1994)
One of the great movies Peter Jackson directed before he was such a famous Hollywood director. Together with his partner, Fan Walsh they co-wrote a screenplay about the notorious 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case in Christchurch. The film is based around the relationship of two teenage girls who invent an imaginary world and create different personas for themselves. In June 1954 they murder Pauline Parker’s mother.
The Piano (1993)
Since she was six, Ada McGrath has been mute. Along with her grand piano and daughter (Anna Paquin), they travel to colonial New Zealand for an arranged marriage. Her new husband sells the piano to Baines. Ada comes to a secret agreement to win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. This is the only NZ film to have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
This is not an exhausted list by any means, as there are other classics as well as new favorites that appear each year. Although the films listed have cemented themselves into New Zealand’s film archive as classics that are always good for a second, third or “I lost count” watch.