Industry picking success for Cliff Curtis film making sold-out festival premiere tonight

The new Cliff Curtis film launching the New Zealand International Film Festival is already a success ahead of the red carpet event in Auckland tonight.

Tickets for the screening of The Dark Horse, starring Kiwi actors Curtis and James Rolleston of Boy fame, sold out at the weekend -- making it one of the festival's quickest selling films in its 46-year history.

The film's Auckland-based writer and director, James Napier Robertson, said last night it was incredible the 2400 tickets had sold so quickly, and he could not think of a more appropriate way for the film to make its world premiere than at The Civic Theatre.

"It's such a New Zealand film, it's such a Kiwi story. It's so special to New Zealand and it felt like the right thing to do with the film was to open it in New Zealand before anywhere else. We feel deeply proud of the film ... I think people will really love the film."

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Others expected at tonight's premiere include Temuera Morrison, Keisha Castle-Hughes, director Andrew Adamson, Karl Urban, and cast members from Shortland Street and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2, a Hollywood sequel shooting in New Zealand.

Produced by Tom Hern, The Dark Horse will screen just once at the Auckland festival before launching the Wellington festival next Wednesday. It opens in cinemas at the end of the month.

It's based on late Gisborne speed chess champion and bipolar sufferer Genesis Potini, played by Curtis, who starts teaching chess to his nephew Mana, played by Rolleston, and an unruly bunch of Gisborne kids to keep them out of trouble.

Robertson said he had been privileged to meet and play chess with Potini and had worked closely with his wife Nat and son Nopera on the film, who along with Shane Fitzgerald and Noble Keelan, who had inspired the characters Jedi and Noble, were being flown from Gisborne to Auckland for the premiere.

Festival director Bill Gosden said although there had not been a public viewing of the film, industry feedback had been glowing. "I think the word is out that it's a great film. Not many people have seen it, but I haven't met anybody among those industry people that have seen it and hasn't been persuaded that it is going to really hit a nerve in New Zealand."

The only other film which he could recall being such a sell-out was when Love Story directed by Kiwi Florian Habicht launched the 2011 festival.

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Another New Zealand film, Gerard Johnstone's Housebound, will premiere during the second week of the festival and Mr Gosden expected the horror-comedy would be popular.

The two children's films, Toons for Tots and Animation for Kids, showing at The Civic were also proving hits.

The festival runs in Auckland from July 17 to August 5.

nziff.co.nz
Watch a trailer for opening night film The Dark Horse here:

The Dark Horse is a true story based on the life of Genesis Potini, a wildly charismatic, bipolar-suffering former chess champion. It stars Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston, and opens in New Zealand cinemas on July 31. Also appearing at the International Film Festival.

Director's top picks

20,000 Days on Earth

- The Civic Theatre, July 18 and 22

Housebound

- The Civic Theatre, July 26

Maps to the Stars

- The Civic Theatre, July 25 and 29

Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets

- The Civic Theatre, July 24 and 25

(by New Zealand International Film Festival director Bill Gosden)