It's a pretty safe bet that this small and heartfelt local movie is the first in history to list all the extras by name. There they are in the final credits, ordered by location: the Tolaga Bay Inn, the Herekino Tavern, the "motel guitar party" and so on.

It's appropriate to the wairua of the work, which is gentle, inclusive and very, very Maori. The Pa Boys is the first feature completed under the aegis of Te Paepae Ataata, the funding arm of the Film Commission charged with "celebrating and developing the film voice of tangata whenua".

Watch the trailer for The Pa Boys here:

Danny, Cityboy and Tau are three-piece Wellington reggae band The Pa Boys, who set off on a tour of small town New Zealand with the aim of reaching the top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. As the band tour, its members also search for identity. Due in cinemas on Waitangi Day (February 6).

Director Himiona Grace, who also wrote the script, comes from a noble literary lineage: his mother is novelist Patricia Grace and his wife is playwright Briar Grace-Smith. And if the new film-maker lacks the assurance of a veteran, he has turned in a very creditable debut feature.

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The boys of the title are a reggae band (the film aptly releases on Bob Marley's birthday), who decide to head "down North" (you need to see the film to get it) on a tour. Alpha male Danny (Kora) and his happy-go-lucky drummer pal CityBoy (Newbery) are joined by newcomer Tau (Whatarau), who is something of a mystery man. The latter's ease with te reo and tikanga unnerves Danny, who derides it as "getting all ancestral". Stuff goes down on the road.

At times, it feels like ideas - about honour and family and tradition - are being shoehorned into the story, the arc of which suffers as a result, but they're good ideas and the film conveys them well. It's also extraordinarily good-looking: seen through director of photography Rewa Harre's lens, the countryside is a major star.

In short, its virtues more than compensate for its lapses and it's a promising first harvest from a vigorous new tree.

Stars:

3.5/5

Cast:

Fran Kora, Matariki Whatarau, Tola Newbery, Roimata Fox, Juanita Hepi, Calvin Tuteao

Director:

Himiona Grace

Running time:

93 mins

Rating:

M (drug use, offensive language). In English and Maori with English subtitles.

Verdict:

Tino pai te mahi

- TimeOut