Crooked Earth

A review by Lael Loewenstein - Variety - December 3, 2001

"Crooked Earth centres on the Maori people's hereditary claims to its land and traditions, as enacted in a bitter showdown that pits brother against brother. Directed by American-born, New Zealand-raised Sam Pillsbury with an eye toward the conventions of the Western genre, starring the electric Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors), the film is a handsomely mounted and compelling family saga...

No Western would be complete without referencing the relationship between the hero, the landscape and mythology that binds them; Crooked Eaarth has those elements in spades. In place of the sprawling plains of the American Southwest, the film offers the craggy peaks of Raukura, New Zealand, home to the tribe Ngati Kaipuku. As the script (credited to five writers) makes clear, heroic tradition and Maori mythology are inextricably linked.

After 20 years as an army office, Captain Will Bastion (Morrison) is forced to resign. Returning home to bury his father, a tribal chief, Will finds his rebellious younger brother Kahu (Lawrence Makoare) anxious to inherit the mantle of tribal leader. Charging into the funeral procession astride a white stallion, Kahu means to make his presence known. Whereas Kahu is a radical separatist who openly defies the government's laws, Will feels estranged from tribal traditions and is reluctant to assume the leadership duties incumbent on the elder son.

At issue is the future of the tribe's land. Having had to fend off the incursions and manipulations of white legislators for years, the tribesmen insist their land remain within the Maori family, despite repeated governmental offers to purchase it, albeit at an insultingly low price. Though Will is willing to negotiate with the government, Kahu's much more aggressive leadership prevails, forcing violent, sometimes fatal confrontations with his dissenters...

Pillsbury manages a remarkable balancing act of objectivity: He neither glorifies Maori rituals as exotic, nor does he demean them. As a result, the film feels authentic and true to its origins. David Gribble's photography like-wise achieves a double-edged mission, rendering the countryside lush and inviting while showing the harsh and dangerous aspects of it as well."

NZVideos Logo

Alphabetical List * Chronological List * News * Buy-Sell-Rent * DVD List * Blu-ray List * Streaming List

What is A New Zealand Feature Film * First Choices * Books * Misc * Links * Directors* Soundtracks

Comments or questions are welcomed at [delete the nospam portion before sending]
Print Friendly and PDF