Guest Post: Three Films About Life in New Zealand

Guest Post: Three Films About Life in New Zealand


Today I have a special treat for all of you – a guest post from my favorite Kiwi film fan, Melanie McMinn, who blogs at The Frugal Kiwi. She keeps me updated on Hobbit goings-on and other Kiwi-related film projects.

The Frugal Kiwi has also been nominated for the “Best Green Home Blog of 2011” award, so hop over to the Homies and cast your vote!


Rena Owen of ‘Once Were Warriors’; Fine Line Features

Three Films About Life in the OTHER Down Under

by Melanie McMinn, The Frugal Kiwi

When I was considering emigrating to New Zealand, I would have no more moved without watching NZ movies than without checking the cost of living. You learn a lot about a culture through its films.

Here are three NZ films you might enjoy to give you a taste of life in the OTHER Down Under. No kangaroos here. Two of the films focus on the lives of Maori, the original inhabitants of these shores, and the third, one of the more recent emigrant groups.

All these movies are available on Netflix. I’ve sprinkled in a bit of information about some faces you’ve seen around Hollywood movies, but might not have know are Kiwis a.k.a. New Zealanders.

These films are all by New Zealand directors on New Zealand subjects. Kiwi films tend to focus on the adult market, so none of the following films are for young children.

THE FILM:Once Were Warriors’; 1995; rated R for pervasive language and strong depiction of domestic abuse, including sexual violence and substance abuse.

THE SCOOP: A powerful drama focusing on the problem of domestic abuse in the Maori population of urban Auckland. The brilliant opening shot of this film shatters the fantasy of New Zealand as a country of nothing more than stunning vistas and herds of sheep. I know grown people who cannot watch this film, as it hits too close to their own childhood experience of domestic violence. The skillfully told story leads you on a difficult journey, but not to a bleak destination.

THE STARS: You may recognize the male lead, Temuera Morrison. He has appeared in a number of Hollywood films including ‘Speed 2,’ ‘Six Days Seven Nights,’ ‘Vertical Limit’ and, most memorably to a Star Wars geek like me, as Jango Fett in ‘Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.’

whale-rider-poster THE FILMWhale Rider’; 2003; rated PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference.

THE SCOOP: A heartwarming drama where a young girl must challenge a thousand years of Maori tradition and her grandfather’s vision of a woman’s place in the world to fulfill her destiny. The stand-out moments of warmth from the Maori women make this movie shine beyond the obvious. Feisty Pai will melt your heart and you’ll want to start honing your own taiaha skills.

THE STARS: You may recognize the young female lead, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and her movie father Cliff Curtis. Keisha has also appeared in ‘The Nativity Story’ and ‘The Vinter’s Luck,’ as well as appearing as the next Queen of Naboo (after Natalie Portman/Padme) in ‘Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith.’ She was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award at the age of 13 for her role in ‘Whale Rider.’

Once you know Kiwi Cliff Curtis, you’ll start seeing him everywhere. He has 40 acting credits in the Internet Movie Database including the recent TV series ‘Trauma’ and movies with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. ‘The Last Airbender,’ ‘Live Free or Die Hard,’ ‘Runaway Jury,’ ‘Collateral Damage,’ ‘Blow’ and ‘Once Were Warriors’ are only a few of his movie credits.

samoan-wedding-posterTHE FILM: ‘Samoan Wedding’; 2006; not rated. This movie has not been rated by the MPAA; however, if they ever get around to it, they will give it an R rating for sexual situations, plus maybe a bit of profanity. It’s known in New Zealand as ‘Sione’s Wedding,’ but maybe the distributor thought that name was just too scary and foreign sounding. Unlike ‘Samoan Wedding.’ But I digress.

THE SCOOP: Before you start yawning and thinking this is another ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ knock-off, stop it. Just stop it right there. It is no such thing. This is a movie about a bunch of guys — friends who are about to banned from going to the wedding of one of their best mates because they are terrible screw-ups. These too-old-to-be-excused ne’er-do-wells are notorious for going to weddings and causing disasters, and the only way they are going to be allowed to go to Sione’s wedding is if they come with girlfriends. Not dates. Real girlfriends. Written and starred in by the famous in New Zealand comedy troupe the Naked Samoans**, you won’t be disappointed at the lengths they go to in order to make it to their mate’s wedding. Completely laugh out loud hilarious. That is coming from me, who is rarely impressed by comedies.

THE STARS: Sadly, despite being big local stars, none of the Naked Samoans have gotten a big Hollywood break. If you’ve got a good eye, you might recognize Robbie Magasiva, although not from his role in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,’ where he was covered in a whole lot of orc make up. Robbie was in the Jason Behr vehicle ‘The Tatooist’ back in 2007.

**Cultural Note: Why Samoans, in whatever state of undress, in New Zealand? Auckland, NZ’s largest city, has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. There are people from many Pacific Islands, but a good number of these folks are Samoan. Talofa!

I hope you enjoy this slice of Kiwi cinema. Feel free to drop by for a bit of New Zealand life at my blog any time. I might be back one day with a few more New Zealand film suggestions.

Note from Jane: Check out the trailer for ‘Samoan Wedding.’ Melanie knows I love light-hearted comedies, and this looks like just the film for me. Thanks, Melanie!

Images: HanWay Films; Fine Line Features; Newmarket Films

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