I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of seeing this film on March 24, 2002, at the 26th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival.
What a delight! I must first admit that I had very few expectations for this film when I selected it. Like many film fesitval veterans, my film choices at these events tend more toward the logistic rather than the artistic: in other words, if the movie plays at 3 p.m. and I am free at 3 p.m. -- and none of the other three films playing at that same time interests me -- I frequently choose a film by default.
In this case, however, my "choice by default" turned out to be a wonderful happenstance. This movie deserves to be picked up for national distribution within the United States very quickly. I was completely charmed by the story of a young New Zealander who is obsessed with Queen Elizabeth II. In an attempt to get the newly crowned Queen to visit her small cheese-making town, the youngster embarks upon a prolific letter-writing campaign to convince the Queen to visit the small town during her upcoming tour of the country.
The relationships in the film are very strongly fleshed out, and the movie can make even the most hard-edged cynic tear up and cry like a little baby! The young actor who plays Elizabeth brings a genuine sweetness and pluckiness to her role. And the woman who plays the Maori elder is wise and noble but never succumbs to cliche. This is a family film that can wear such a badge with absolute distinction. It teaches without preaching or condescending. I cannot rave enough about this wonderful film!
The writer/director of the film was present for the screening. He described how it took him nearly 13 years to get the movie made, what with his chasing of financing as well as his dealings with studios that wanted him to compromise his script by moving the setting to America instead of its New Zealand locale. I can only hope that some of these same "industry types" who were so quick to dismiss the film were present for the Cleveland screening, where the audience erupted in thunderous cheers and applause at the end of the movie.
Keep a watchful eye out for this movie -- and pray that it gets the wide exposure it so dearly deserves!
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