Barry Barclay, director of the thought-provoking 'The Feathers of Peace' (2000), really struck a winning formula with his earlier 'Ngati'. Set in 1948 in the small town of Kapua on the East Coast, the plot consists of three strands - the planned closure of the freezing works that provides the town with its main source of income; the visit of a young Australian doctor whose father was once the GP for Kapua and who left many years ago following the death of his wife; and the worsening condition of a sick boy whose illness refuses to be treated by both Maori and Pakeha remedies.
Even though most New Zealand films tend to follow a non-classical, sometimes episodic narrative structure, 'Ngati' proves to be a very tightly plotted and satisfying picture, combining its many elements and culminating in the hui with the representatives of the owners of the freezing works.
Wi Kuki Kaa's portrayal of Iwi, with his silent, brooding leadership, is highly commendable, and the two boys who played Tione and Ropata (Michael Tibble and Oliver Jones respectively) displayed acting talent well beyond their years. The music (by the one and only Dalvanius!) helped illustrate an enormously strong sense of community, and I liked the way the revelation about the death of Greg's mother turned his whole attitude around. (And the jokes made at the expense of Australians are good for a laugh.)
After seeing a number of disappointing locally-made films, 'Ngati' restored my faith in the Kiwi film industry. Definitely one to add to my collection.
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