The latest movie by acclaimed New Zealand director Toa Fraser, The Dead Lands is totally in Māori, appropriately since the action occurs in the days before Europe encountered New Zealand. The movie was released in New Zealand in 2014.
James Rolleston (Hongi) and Lawrence Makoare (The Warrior) are terrific in their respective roles as an aggrieved young warrior seeking the guidance of a reclusive but violent elder, in a matter of tribal revenge.
Te Kohe Tuhaka is terrific as Wirepa (below, left), almost stealing the movie from his better known cast members. Xavier Horan also stars as Rangi, with Raukura Turei (right) as Mehe, a wahine toa – woman warrior – who has the audacity to confront The Warrior, with tragic results.
Veteran and accomplished Māori actors George Henare and Rena Owen also star in this movie.
The movie did fairly well in New Zealand, but it is a terrific watch – though, be wary, it is also quite violent, though these days, with quick-editing, you don’t get to see the worst of it. Quick-cutting (for want of a better term) was used to good effect by Ridley Scott in ‘Gladiator’, though it does tend to ritualise (or sanitise) violence, which can be a little troubling.
The movie also depicts a Māori world given to unrelieved warfare, warfare as the modus through which all tribal and personal relations are mediated. Some scholars agree with this view, like Māori jurist Sir Eddie Durie, in his masterful study, Māori Custom Law (1994). Dr Angella Ballara has also argued that ‘warfare was endemic in Māori society’, though she has equally written of peace-making protocols that also existed, alongside the Māori propensity for war.
Rating out of 10 : 9
Click on The Dead Lands image to see a copy of an advertising brochure released with the movie.