This little heard of film, is a stunning achievement in cinema. It is a brilliant, yet honest, look at the hardship of Chinese gold miners in New Zealand in the late 19th century and the racism they faced. The direction of Leon Narbey is controlled and ordered, the cinematography is stunning, the script historically genuine and well constructed. The score is one of the better in movies of its time. The acting the leads, especially Shaun Bao, is understated and atmospheric.
So why, if this movie is so good, has it not been so well known? Basically, the topic was not commercially successful so only film lovers and critics have seen it. Unfortunately, the reality is that a film about Chinese immigrants and racism does not sell. If it had been about Maori (indigenous New Zealanders) or an American film about the treatment of Blacks, it would have received considerably more coverage and critical acclaim.
Quite clearly, this film was 15 years before its time and only now in 2003 are New Zealand films showing the same quality - such as Whale Rider. (Interestingly, the director Leon Narbey for this movie, is the cinematographer for Whale Rider. Coincidence? I think not.)
A movie of genius and art. A must see.
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