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Sione's Wedding (2006)
Over-hyped and overrated
It seems to me, as a recent film school graduate, that in these times of New Zealand film reaching new heights, the general public seems to think every New Zealand film made is great. Sione's Wedding proves this is dead wrong.
It's completely overrated and not funny, and far from the 'hilarious' film other users of IMDb have commented. The only really funny thing I found in this film was Derek the wannabe black guy, but other than that the jokes were recycled crap that we'd all heard before.
Being of half-Samoan decent, I wanted to see how the film was going to deal with Polynesian representation. It was a complete balls-up - I know it's a supposed comedy, but I didn't feel like the characters had anything new to say about Polynesian identity, even if it was in a tongue-in-cheek manner. I was most disappointed with the ending of the film and the resolution of the character's relationships - Mikaele was the player who only messed around with white women, comes to slightly turn his ways when the 'Dusky Maiden' comes to town, has an epiphany that maybe he should start looking for a stable relationship, then at the very last minute rejects it and accepts his position as a Polynesian Playboy for palagi women. I didn't understand why they did this.
All in all, it was very disappointing. My whole family went to see it expecting to have a good laugh, but ended up being really bitter about paying to see it at the cinema. The jokes are lame at best, the acting, particularly of Sefa's girlfriend, APPALLING, and honestly I would've been happy if I had got my hands on one of those pirated copies of the film to save myself the $15 ticket price.
I think the only good thing to come from the movie is that it's the second step (behind No. 2, of course, a far superior film to this one) in the birth of Polynesian cinema. I hope Pacific filmmakers in the future can learn from Sione's Wedding in how to NOT reflect Polynesia and have something more meaningful and sensible to say. Even if it is done in a comedic fashion.
No. 2 (2006)
Subtle and endearing
I went to school in Mt. Roskill, where the film is set; I drive through the suburb everyday to and from work; and my mother is from Polynesia. On several levels I could relate to this film and was proud to see Auckland, and it's Polynesian culture, represented in such an accurate and endearing way.
No. 2 centers around Nana Maria (a great performance by Ruby Dee), who wants her grandchildren to organize a feast for her at which she will name her heir, who will take over the house when she dies. Tense relationships both amongst and between generations are slowly and subtly introduced, and over the course of the day the family struggles to negotiate their Fijian culture within the New Zealand context.
The acting was superb (although notably, I think a minority of the actors were actually Fijian), the story subtle but beautiful, and Auckland was represented very accurately and stunningly. A feel-good film that makes you want to get in contact with your long lost cousins and reminisce about days gone by.
Great characters, great acting, and an enjoyable film.
The World's Fastest Indian (2005)
Blatantly Kiwi, surprisingly Universal
'The World's Fastest Indian' is a unique movie that not only provides a film that New Zealanders anywhere can be most proud of, while at the same time contemplating universal themes that everyone outside the borders of the country can relate to.
The film contains that familiar 'Number 8 fencing wire' mentality that resonates throughout New Zealand society - and also echoes those tropes of masculinity that are so prominent within the National cinema: Burt tinkers with his 1920 Indian Motorcycle with the most unexpected results, using common household objects; he travels to the Bonneville Saltflats in Utah alone, getting by on his wit; and has that dry sense of humour that is familiar around these parts. It also contains the familiar 'man Alone' motif, but in a foreign country, and also touches on that other image of New Zealand men tinkering in their sheds. The film is, what I would call, blatantly Kiwi.
Wider themes that surface are of isolation, alienation, and beating the odds to achieve your dream. What I can definitely say about 'The World's Fastest Indian', is that it's very refreshing - this is no typical underdog story; it's a story that proves that you're never too old to follow through with a dream you've had for years. It was great to have a protagonist that was older than the usual one in contemporary movies, and seemed to give the film more of an anchoring in reality. It makes it far more easier to believe in the story and it's motivations, and heightens the sense of isolation one sometimes goes through when following your heart.
Sir Anthony Hopkins does an amazing job as Burt Munro - the New Zealand accent is impeccable, aside from one or two vowel sounds. His subtleties communicate an intense psychological battle and determination to get the chance to achieve his dream, and his typical sense of humour is wonderful. I'm not sure how accurate this portrayal of Burt Munro is, but the screen character is engaging and pulls the audience in for a solid 2 hours as we watch Burt battle with his demons, and the lack of people's belief in his achieving his goal.
All in all, 'The World's Fastest Indian' is a fantastic film that New Zealanders can be proud of, soaked with Kiwi humour and a character that will remind a lot of us of our grandfathers and that older generation that never complained and got on with life, no matter what they were up against. For international audiences, it's a wonderful underdog story about an older man who had never given up on getting his chance to achieve his dream.
'The World's Fastest Indian' is a fantastic film, and will inspire anyone who gets the chance to see it. Roger Donaldson continues his fine tradition of great movies, and all Kiwis should hold him up to the same heights as they do that other Jackson fulla!