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Monday 08 November 2010

Film review: Matariki

Posted in: Movies
By Reviewed by Jacqui Stanford - 4th November 2010

New Zealand, 90 minutes

Directed by: Michael Bennett
Starring: Jason Wu, Susana Tang, Sara Wiseman, Mark Ruka, Jarod Rawiri, IaHeto Ah Hi, Alix Bushnell, Michael Whalley, Edwin Wright.

Tyrone and Rick

A lasting image from Matariki is the rare-big screen sighting of a gay New Zealand couple, one man Maori, the other Polynesian, holding a newborn.

The story of Rick and Tyrone and how the baby ends up in their arms is one of the strands which weaves New Zealand film Matariki together. Rick (played by Jarod Rawiri) is living in a secret relationship with Tyrone and is conflicted when he is called to the bedside vigil for his dying brother. He shuts Tyrone out and won't accept his support because he is afraid of being judged by his traditional Maori family.

However as the title suggests, the film is set during Maori New Year, which is a time for new beginnings.

Directed by Outrageous Fortune's Michael Bennett, Matariki depicts the streets of South Auckland, from their desperation and harshness, to their rich culture, heart and values. It features five intertwined stories, sparked by the heroism of Rick's league star brother Tama, who intervenes as a desperate man is being mercilessly beaten and is himself attacked and left in a coma. His hardy police officer wife rushes to his bedside and is overwhelmed and unable to cope with her husband's family. The man Tama saves is touched by heart wrenching tragedy, while the world-wise young thief who nicks Tama's idling car then goes on a ride he never expected.

With Rick and Tyrone, we get a side of gay Auckland that is a world away from K' Rd night clubs and Herne Bay villas; they sell jewellery at the Otara markets. We meet the pair as Rick picks a skirt-clad Tyrone up from his netball game in a beat-up van, silently driving as Tyrone rambles on about the match then fires out with, "you're the strong silent type. That's why I love you. That and your big Maori cock".

The couple sleep naked wrapped in each other's arms, and then become distant and awkward when Rick's family is around. There is an oxymoronic sense of both detachment and intimacy between them that is palpable.

It is when Rick learns to stand up for his sister-in-law that he also stands up for himself.

IaHeto Ah Hi as Tyrone

And Tyrone, played gorgeously by IaHeto Ah Hi, who was also one of the film's original writers, overcomes moments of being the 'camp light relief' to be the warmest character in the film. He is the angel struggling down and out pregnant woman, Lisa (played by Go Girls' Alix Bushnell), is really looking for, an odd connection which creates the reconnection with his partner.

There are many threads in Matariki, which leaves a few loose ends. There isn't too much closure. But perhaps this is simply a reflection of the real world, the real streets and the real lives the film it portrays.

- Jacqui Stanford

Matariki opens in cinemas on November 18. Watch the trailer below:

Reviewed by Jacqui Stanford - 4th November 2010

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