Hunt for The Wilder People : Movie Review

It’s 6 o’clock Saturday 11th June 2016. I’ve exited the Event Cinemas in George Street Sydney. I’m sitting on a step scribbling furiously as people pass me by, lights and shadows draping me briefly.  I’m too immersed in what I’m doing to notice much else.

I’ve just seen Hunt For The Wilder People, the New Zealand smash-hit, apparently seen by one-in-nine Kiwis, though not yet as many people living on the West Island (Australia, in case you’re wondering).

It’s the story of an incorrigible orphaned boy Ricky (played by Julian Dennison). As a last resort, he is sent to the final foster parents in the middle of nowhere by Child Services. Totally unimpressed, Ricky tries to return to Child Services but once settled at home promptly runs away. After being found again (and again),  he  slowly acclimatises to his new environment, and starts to bond with his foster mother Bella (played by Rima Te Wiata). However, he develops a tenuous and stand-offish relationship with her cantankerous partner Hec (Sam Neill) who really would rather be left alone.

Sadly, tragically, Bella collapses and dies. With only Hec left, Child Services informs them that they will now take Ricky back. That’s enough for Ricky to go bush for good. Once Hec realises the situation, he searches for and finds Ricky but is injured in the pursuit.

Unfortunately, Paula from Child Services (No Child Left Behind, No Child Left Behind is her mantra), arrives on the now deserted farm. With no Ricky or Hec, she calls in the real police and starts a manhunt.

Directed by Taika Watiti, (director of Boy) who has an amusing and disturbing cameo as a pastor, this film showcases the scenery of New Zealand (the opening is like a travelogue) but lets the story unfold itself at its own pace. Through crisis, contemplation and humour,  we see the relationship between Ricky and Hec develop even if they are complete opposites. In their continuing adventures, Ricky learns bushcraft, bravery and brashly defies Paula from Child Services when she nearly catches him again. As the manhunt becomes national news, they’re left to the encroaching winter, the not-so-stealthy efforts of the pursuing Special Forces and the police. Although I did experience deja vu having watched Sam Neill in much the same situation in Sleeping Dogs!

Luckily, the Hunt for the Wilder People has a more humourous and happy outcome even if Ricky and Hec do end up confronting the New Zealand Army on its home turf.  And Julian Dennison steals the film.

This is a wonderfully told story, with many laughs and some sadness too. And a cast whose enjoyment in making this movie shines through! Go see it and enjoy.

Anzac Day : Some Reflections

Despite learning about Anzac Day all my life, it wasn’t until recently I found its meaning to me.

Monument to Atatürk

Monument to Atatürk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a child, I did attend Dawn Service with my Dad. I tried my best to stay awake and not appear bored.I remember reading the plaque which had far too many names for a small country town. But it held little impact.

At school, I learnt all the history. The First World War, the enlistment of the Anzacs, the training in Egypt, the failed attack on the Dardanelles, the Anzac landings, withdrawal, the trench warfare in France. But history much like news only happens to other people. It had little meaning to me.

But at secondary school, my attitude changed some more. As part of a team working on the school magazine, a debate arose over what to write about the school’s Anzac Day commemoration. Should we put the Ode of Remembrance or something else?

In the end, I lobbied to have the last two verses published. Reading those last two verses as a boy of 14 or 15, about young men going to war and dying really hit home. I felt sad for their loss and thought that but for a mere few decades I could have been at Gallipoli.

The next shift occurred while reading my family tree. Several great-uncles had lost their lives in the First World War, at Gallipoli and France. I absorbed the information and accepted it. After all a family tree is names on a page.

But there I was standing in our street in Footscray talking to our neighbours about its history. After the First World War, many houses were simply vacated as fathers, brothers and sons did not come back home. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. Here was the emptiness of war. 

The Dawn Service that I had attended with my spouse (her grandfather was in Changi) the year before suddenly had new poignancy for me.

But the final word, belongs to Kemal Ataturk and his words over the Turkish, Australian, British and New Zealand graves in Gallipoli:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
To me Ataturk is talking about Australia as well. That is what the Anzacs fought for. That is what Anzac Day means to me.

The Introverted Tourist

Empty street, San Marino

Empty street, San Marino (Photo credit: adrian, acediscovery)

Halfway through listening about that last overseas trip I wanted to interrupt. I had heard something new and quite different about travelling overseas.

While talking about meeting people in their own country I began to hear a quiet deference. Someone who wanted to tread lightly as an invited guest.

I’m no traveller. I’ve been to Singapore and New Zealand. I’ve never been out of my comfort zone. Until this conversation I had never even considered the idea of the introverted tourist.

I certainly don’t identify with the tourist that is the centre of attention. The loud one with the expectation that the whole country is waiting for their next request.

No what I heard was this. I am a curious guest. I am visiting your country. I do know something of course, but mostly there is much I don’t know. And I will learn more if I am respectful to all those I meet. That is what I received from my conversation with the introverted tourist.