It wasn't released until Waitangi Day, but a small audience gathered at Te Ahu in Kaitaia on Monday for an advance screening of the highly anticipated New Zealand 'road' movie The Pa Boys.

Producer Mina Mathieson said invitation-only screenings had been held in communities where filming had taken place, those locations including Herekino, Ahipara, the Hokianga, Te Paki and Te Rerenga Wairua.

Billed as a comedy/drama road movie/love story, funded by the Maori Film Commission, The Pa Boys follows the exploits of a fictional reggae band as they embark on a 'Tour Down North', from Wellington to Cape Reinga, but anyone hoping to see teenage vampires offering unrequited love, big budget sets, A-listers, explosions, a high body count, sex and/or computer-generated special effects, will likely be left disappointed.

It's a gentle, slow-moving film that takes its core theme, a man's spirituality, seriously, albeit not without a healthy dose of Maori humour.

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The scenery is amongst the stars, while the band members are very accomplished musicians, but the loudest hoots at Te Ahu were reserved for scenes shot in the Far North, especially when the Pa Boys played the Herekino Tavern, with a number of recognisable locals dancing in front of the stage.

Present at the screening were director Himiona Grace, producer Mina Mathieson, and main actors Fran Kora, Matariki Whatarau (Go Girls, The Almighty Johnsons) and Tola Newberry, Mr Grace saying it was important to take the movie on tour.

"It's our way of thanking the community. Go back to those places where we shot the film," he said.

"All those big Hollywood movies have expensive publicity stunts; this is a cheap publicity stunt."

Promotion included an online competition inviting marae to submit entries in a bid to win the official world premiere in their patch, Mr Grace saying he had been "blown away" by the quality of the entries, particularly one from Rusty's Surf Lodge at Ahipara.

"Ahipara had a massive entry," he said, although the nod eventually went to Te Poho o Rawiri Marae in Gisborne which hosted the event on Tuesday last week.

The film had had a long gestation period, he added.

"I have always had the story. Took a long time to write the script, 10 years, really worked on it for the last three years but I never doubted it. The story pulled all these people in; the film was a real collaboration," he said.

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"It's been good seeing all those people who helped us make the film. It's been a real awesome time."