A little bit of Taika, a little bit Jackson, a little bit Footrot Flats. Calum Henderson celebrates the best New Zealand-made films available to watch on Lightbox right now.
Growing up, the options sometimes felt a bit limited when it came to New Zealand movies. Want a whimsical romcom? Your best bet was probably the first half of Heavenly Creatures.
These days things are better. The laugh out loud comedy to brooding dramatic masterpiece ratio has evened out. There’s a greater diversity of choice – you can even get a proper local romcom that doesn’t end with a horrific bludgeoning.
Here are six of the best local options ready to stream on Lightbox, right… now.
They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson’s project to painstakingly restore and colourise 100-year-old film from the BBC and the Imperial War Museum simply has to be seen to be believed. The difference it makes from the grainy old black and white footage we’re used to seeing of World War 1 brings the soldiers and the horrors they faced to life in the most chilling way. Instead of feeling like some distant history, it’s suddenly all too easy to imagine yourself in their shoes. More than just an impressive technical feat, They Shall Not Grow Old is a film everybody should watch.
Three Wise Cousins (2016)
This sweet, funny romcom was self-funded by first-time writer-director Stallone Vaiaogo-Ioasa and filmed in Samoa over just a couple of weeks. After Adam (Neil Amituanai) overhears his crush Mary (Gloria Ofa Blake) saying she only likes ‘real’ Island guys, he takes an urgent trip to his homeland to learn the true island ways from his cousins. Despite a limited release and minimal marketing, Three Wise Cousins proved a sleeper hit, especially with Pacific audiences, though the appeal is universal. If you missed the boat then, definitely hop on board now.
Hibiscus & Ruthless (2018)
Sounds like a mid-billing R&V drum and bass act, but Hibiscus & Ruthless is actually Stallone Vaiaogo-Ioasa’s follow-up to Three Wise Cousins – another low-budget, high-charm Pacific comedy. Hibiscus (Suivai Pilisipi Autagvaia) is in her last year of uni and living by her mum’s golden rule: “No going out, No boyfriends.” So she enlists her childhood friend Ruth AKA Ruthless (Anna-Maree Thomas) to handle all interested suitors on her behalf. Part buddy comedy, part romantic comedy, all heart.
The Breaker Upperers (2018)
Written, directed by and starring the irresistibly crack-up duo of Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek as ‘The Breaker Upperers,’ a two-woman Auckland agency offering to break up with people on their clients’ behalf. Things get messy, and funny, as the pair inevitably get in over their heads. The whole movie is crawling with familiar faces and comedic cameos – James Rolleston, Rima Te Wiata, Oscar Kightley, and Taika Waititi’s favourite actor / best friend Cohen Holloway.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi’s big screen adaptation of Barry Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress was an instant New Zealand classic from the moment it was released in 2016. Usually it takes years and/or significant international acclaim for that to happen, but one look at Sam Neill in a Swanny and you just knew, didn’t you? He’s Uncle Hec, reluctant foster uncle to inner city bad egg Ricky (Julian Dennison), an odd couple who go bush pursued by formidable child welfare worker Paula (Rachel House). The action and comedy is counterbalanced by just the right amount of poignancy.
That’s always been Taika Waititi’s secret weapon – no one does it better.
To paraphrase philosopher king David Brent: a good movie is a good movie… forever. Especially when it’s the evergreen, iconic Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tale. New Zealand’s first animated feature film, based on Murray Ball’s popular newspaper comic strip, was written with Tom Scott and is in part responsible for making ‘Slice of Heaven’ by Dave Dobbyn and Herbs the unofficial national anthem we know and love today. Voice talent includes the late John ‘Fred Dagg’ Clarke (as Wal Footrot) and Billy T James. Timeless, classic.
You can watch all these films on Lightbox right here.
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