Arts & Music / 20 June, 2016

New Zealand International Film Festival highlights

The story of Poi E and an adaptation of Elenor Catton's The Rehearsal are the big Kiwi releases at this year's festival.

Poi E: The Story of Our Song
Directed by Tearepa Kahi

Opening this year's festival, Tearepa Kahi’s documentary explores our unofficial national anthem and most joyous pop song—'Poi E'. 

Co-writer Dalvanius Prime enjoyed an international R&B career in the 1970s. He returned from Sydney to Taranaki to nurse his dying mother and stayed to embrace his culture and te reo Māori. Collaboration with singer Prince Tui Teka led him to Māori language composer Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi. Together they composed ‘Poi E’: in this film you will hear the first ever recording, made soon after.

Adding embellishments that did not please his co-composer but impressed her mokopuna, he persuaded his Taranaki whānau, the Patea Māori Club, to perform it. A man on a mission, chihuahuas under each arm, he pulled together a diverse and talented bunch of collaborators to record the song and crowdfund a brilliant music video that, amongst other things, captured the vitality and pride of his hometown facing hard times. The film, told largely in Dalvanius’ own words, is brimful of music and frank and funny testimony from numerous participants in the song’s richly peopled history. Taking a lesson from the man himself, Kahi draws the next generation into the story, ably assisted by Taika Waititi, who provides Stan Walker, aged 25, with essential information about what life was like before ‘Poi E’.

The Pātea Māori Club are coming from Taranaki to Auckland to run a workshop at the Corban Estate Arts Centre Matariki Festival and will teach participants to sing their iconic song. Click here for more information.

The Rehearsal

Directed by Alison Maclean 
Starring James Rolleston, Kerry Fox, Alice Englert, Ella Edward, Kieran Charnock, Michelle Ny, Scotty Cotter, Marlon Williams.

Unpacking the dramas that energise a class of budding young actors, The Rehearsal mounts an enticing inquisition of performance, identity and moral anxiety with resonance far beyond its hothouse setting.

James Rolleston (Boy, The Dead Lands) vanishes into the part of Stanley, a naive newcomer drawn to the city by his passion to make it on stage. While his new best friends indulge in wilder stuff, gentle Stanley tentatively romances 15-year-old Isolde (Ella Edward).

His sweet dreams may have found their nemesis in Hannah (Kerry Fox), the school’s grandstanding senior tutor. Students must deconstruct themselves, she contends, before they can play at being anybody else. Stanley gradually bends to her taunting style, until, in one of the dazzling turns that stud the film, he earns her applause with a hilarious, treacherously accurate impersonation of his salesman father. Even murkier waters await when his class decides that a sex scandal involving Isolde’s older sister should be intensively researched for their end-of-year show.

With Michelle Ny, Marlon Williams and Kieran Charnock providing vivid support to the young principals, The Rehearsal carries a potent extra-textual charge: there’s enough talent in this fictional drama school to constitute a real-world new wave. Like the novel, the film (co-scripted with Emily Perkins) is as attentive to the misleading effect youthful nerve can have on the ‘mature’ as it is to the crises the teachers so blithely incite in the taught.

Le Ride

Directed by Phil Keoghan

Phil Keoghan, television personality, adventurer and bike enthusiast, pays tribute to a little-known Kiwi sports hero by duplicating one of his most remarkable feats in this documentary.

In 1928, New Zealander Harry Watson and three Australian cyclists teamed up to compete in the Tour de France. Racing as an untested team of four, the Australasians were conspicuously raw amongst the elite ten-man European teams, but they were tenacious and learned fast.

The race was designed to eliminate as many riders as possible—and so, one might think, were the bikes. Most of the roads were unpaved and the heavy steel bikes weighed twice as much as a modern racing bike. More riders failed to finish the 1928 Tour de France than any other Tour in history: 168 riders began the arduous 3,500-mile race; only 41 finished.

Handsomely shot, and rich in fascinating detail and photographic evidence of Watson and his teammates’ epic achievement, Keoghan’s film feels their pain so that you don’t have to.

New Zealand's Best

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.01.27 pm

For this year’s New Zealand’s Best short film competition, NZIFF programmers Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell viewed 81 submissions to make a shortlist of 12, from which filmmaker Lee Tamahori (Ngāti Porou) selected these six finalists.

Check out the six finalists here and vote for your favourite.


*Blurbs taken from the New Zealand International Film Festival website. Check out the full festival programme at or click on a city below.






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