Actor Wayne Hapi who played "Ariki" had no previous acting experience before his debut in 'The Dark Horse', however as an ex gang-member he did have direct experience with the film's content. Wayne applied for an audition via email after Casting Director Yvette Reid placed a job listing at WINZ "seeking Maori Men aged 50-65yrs, tattoos and criminal records welcome!". Wayne was honoured with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 2014 New Zealand Film awards. See more »
In a chess lesson, Genesis identifies the square c4 as "the Spanish square" and b5 as "the Italian square." These are the squares to which white moves the king's bishop on the third move of the Giuoco Piano, or Italian Game, and the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish Game, respectively; he's got them backward. See more »
I had the chance to see this film on the opening night of the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival. The advance reviews from critics had been so unanimously high that I went in with pretty strong expectations, which can easily backfire when a film is unable to live up to the hype. I really thought that might be the case with this.
But, literally, from the first frame of this incredible film (which silenced everyone around me, it's such a stunning opening shot), I forgot all of that, and became completely utterly wonderfully immersed in the story and performances and everything that unraveled before my eyes over the next two hours.
The way that this film deals with chess, Maori mythology, mental illness, gangs, kids... and weaves them all together, is just so compelling. The way that it moves from tragedy to comedy, without it ever feeling forced... the performances from people that apparently have never acted before in their lives... It's really hard to believe and so impressive.
The reaction around me was also hard to believe. Throughout the film, people all over the theatre (myself included) were literally laughing, crying, applauding, gasping, cheering, weeping... And then at the end after the ENTIRE credits had rolled without anyone moving, there was a standing ovation from the ENTIRE audience - almost 2,500 people! Incredible. I haven't been part of something quite like that before.
The emotion of this film is so powerful, the craft on display is so strong, the directing, writing, acting, music, cinematography. Just sublime. I really was floored.
The person I attended with told me after wards they thought this could be the greatest NZ film they've ever seen. I recently heard the National Radio Review say a similar thing when they were reviewing it.
I would have to agree.
Simply stunning. 10/10.
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