When TimeOut enters Julian Boshier's Ponsonby studio, there's a travel brochure for Bali lying open on his desk. Is he booking a holiday?

"I need to go somewhere," he says, exhaling. "I just want to sit in the sun and drink margaritas on the rocks. I need a reward from this movie."

Boshier's earned it. Swagger of Thieves, the music video veteran's first feature film, charts the highs and lows of Head Like a Hole, a band that has struggled with drug addiction, feuding band members, financial concerns and the death of a manager.

It's rugged and raw, an emotional journey for anyone with even a passing resemblance of the 90s rock act who formed in 1992, split in 2000, reformed in 2009, released the blistering comeback album Blood Will Out in 2011, and are still active today.

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"I didn't want to make a fanboy film. That would be boring," says Boshier. Instead, the film centres around the fractious relationship between the band's two main members, hot head singer Booga Beazley and naive guitarist Nigel Regan.

Boshier zeros in on their complicated relationship. "Booga and Nigel are born to be in a successful rock band," he says. "It's really sad how it hasn't happened, they just got into drugs too early. There's a lot of falling out, disharmony and dysfunction."

Making the movie was full of conflict for Boshier too. It cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money and includes footage shot over more than 10 years. "I overshot," he says. "I could have made three films." When he finished shooting in 2012, he locked the footage away for three years. "I didn't even want to think about it."

But the results, screening tonight as part of the International Film Festival, show Boshier's efforts were worth it. It's an astonishing film, capturing the band during many candid moments. Drug use is rampant. At one point, a tour is threatened because Beazley could lose his foot to an infection. At another, Beazley and Regan argue over missing tour money in a tense hotel confrontation.

Filming Booga Beazley for Swagger of Thieves.
Filming Booga Beazley for Swagger of Thieves.

Some may say it's too candid. "It hasn't been censored," Boshier says. But he believes it's the film the band deserves. "They know they're the bad boys. They want to be the bad boys. It's part of the brand of Head Like a Hole."

Boshier's long journey with the film almost mirrors the highs and lows of the band. You have to ask: how did he keep going?

"I think they're one of the most creative, interesting bands we've got. To me, they've got everything. I knew I wanted to do it right and I didn't want to screw it up."

LOWDOWN
Who: Julian Boshier
What: Head Like a Hole documentary Swagger of Thieves
Where and when: Premieres tonight at The Civic as part of the film festival, starting at 8.45pm
More information: www.nziff.co.nz