Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Cliff Curtis and Boy star's new film to open festival (+trailer)

TAKING CHARGE: Cliff Curtis as chess champion Genesis Potini and James Rolleston as his nephew.
TAKING CHARGE: Cliff Curtis as chess champion Genesis Potini and James Rolleston as his nephew.

The Dark Horse, a New Zealand movie tipped to become one of the year's most important local releases, is to be the opening night film at next month's the New Zealand International Film Festival.

The second feature by writer-director James Napier Robertson, the film stars Cliff Curtis and Boy's James Rolleston in a story based on the life of chess champion Genesis Potini, who inspired the 2001 documentary Dark Horse.

Curtis plays Potini, who was a mental health advocate afflicted with bipolar disorder and who died in 2011.

Watch the trailer for The Dark Horse:


The dramatisation casts Rolleston as his nephew who finds himself being dragged into his father's gang while Potini takes charge at a local kids' chess club.

Festival director Bill Gosden says The Dark Horse as a film that "is going to mean a lot to New Zealand audiences for years to come", with the programme describing Curtis' performance as "superb".

The film's producers say the film is "about two lost souls finding the strength to carry on through each other's company - believing in themselves. Even if no one else does."

The film will open the Auckland event on July 17 and the Wellington one a week later.

It's one of a dozen local features in this year's programme being announced today that also includes Gerard Johnstone's comedy-horror Housebound, which has already proved a hit with audiences and reviewers at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year.

The other local features getting their world premieres at this year's festival are ...

Aunty and the Star People
Director: Gerard Smyth
In New Zealand, writer Jean Watson is an anonymous elderly woman living in a modest Wellington flat. In southern India she is revered as the famous "Jean Aunty". Gerard Smyth's documentary explores her fascinating double life.

Cap Bocage
Director: Jim Marbrook
Jim Marbrook, director of Mental Notes and the original Dark Horse documentary, takes us inside the long environmental campaign that followed the pollution of traditional Kanak fishing grounds in New Caledonia in 2008.

Director Gavin Hipkins
For his first feature-length film, widely exhibited New Zealand photographer Gavin Hipkins invests a richly pictorial essay with the 21st-century resonance of Samuel Butler's lively utopian satire Erewhon, written in 1872.

Everything We Loved
Director: Max Currie
A man, a woman and a four-year-old boy retreat to a house outside town. What are they hiding from? Debut writer/director Max Currie staggers the revelations to dramatic effect in this suspenseful psychological drama.

Watch the trailer for Everything We Loved

Hot Air
Director: Alister Barry
In the years since New Zealand politicians began to grapple with climate change our carbon emissions have burgeoned. Alister Barry's doco draws on TV archives and interviews with key participants to find out why.

Voices of the Land Ng Reo o te Whenua
Director: Paul Wolffram
Paul Wolffram's fascinating and eloquent doco about Mori instrumental traditions accompanies Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo as they perform in a series of remarkable South Island wilderness settings.

notes to eternity
Director: Sarah Cordery
Renowned critics of Israeli policies - Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Sara Roy and Robert Fisk - provide personal substance and historical perspective to their arguments in this impressive film by New Zealander Sarah Cordery.

Orphans and Kingdoms
Director: Paolo Rotondo
In writer/director Paolo Rotondo's debut feature, three homeless teenagers break into a deluxe Waiheke Island home and find themselves caught in a tense psychodrama with the conflicted owner.

Director: Jonathan King
An up-and-coming media executive has good reason to question the very facts of his existence in this micro-budget sci-fi chiller from director Jonathan King (Black Sheep, Under the Mountain) and novelist Chad Taylor.

Te Awa Tupua: Voices from the River
Director: Paora Joseph
This beautiful new film from the director of Tatarakihi honours the power and poetry in the stories of Whanganui iwi, past and present, and their longstanding struggle to reclaim guardianship over their ancestral river.

Director: Susy Pointon
Many roads lead to the Hokianga in this engaging documentary portrait of several generations of inhabitants: local iwi, long-established farming families, and the alternative lifestylers of the 60s and 70s who put down roots and stayed.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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