The Dark Horse, 134 minutes

Twenty years ago, Once Were Warriors made Kiwi filmgoers sit up and take notice of the talent of our film-makers and the reality of a disturbing part of New Zealand life.

The Dark Horse doesn't so much as follow in its footsteps as create its own path as an outstanding cinematic effort the country can be proud of.

Whereas Once Were Warriors was predominantly a graphic taste of the violence inherent in some Maori communities, The Dark Horse is about the power of redemption.


Based on a true story, Genesis Potini (Cliff Curtis) is a fallen hero. In his youth he was know as the "dark horse" because of his exceptional chess abilities.

He was a genius on the chess board and the only thing that could stop him was himself.

But Genesis walked a fine line between genius and madness.

When his demons got the better of him, he was committed to a mental health institution.

Now an adult, Genesis, who is bipolar, has one last chance to prove he can make a life outside of the institutional world he knows too well.

With the help of his brother -- gang member Ariki (Wayne Hapi) -- Genesis must take his medication and stay positive or he will be back inside.

He sees a return to chess as his one hope and joins forces with the Eastern Knights children's chess club in his Gisborne hometown.

For these children, chess is a way to keep them off the streets, but Genesis sees more for them than that.


He enters his ragtag bunch of Maori children chess players into a competition in Auckland, a mission he won't be swayed from.

Genesis wants to involve his nephew Mana (Boy's James Rolleston), but that interferes with the gang life he is destined for.

Genesis' story is truly inspiring and offers an incredible beacon of hope for struggling communities.

The Dark Horse is a must-see for Kiwis, as much to enjoy Genesis' amazing story as to see thepeerless acting talents of Curtis.