New Zealand feature film Uproar starring Julian Dennison (pictured) is screening at the Empire Theatre in Avarua, Rarotonga. The movie is co-written and co-directed by Rarotonga-based filmmaker Hamish Bennett. 23102750
As the credits rolled on the Cook Islands premiere of New Zealand feature film Uproar on Tuesday night, a packed Empire Theatre erupted in applause.
comedy-drama’s co-writer and co-director, Aotearoa Maori filmmaker Hamish
Bennett, has called Rarotonga home for nearly two years. Clapping intensified
as he took the stage, quieting as he began sharing trivia and fielding
questions from a moved audience.
you know Julian Dennison’s mother, Mabelle, plays Tui – an elderly Maori rights
activist who sets his character on the path of re-discovering his indigenous
roots? “They’re your people too,” she tells him, smile tender as he expresses
sympathy for Maori after learning about the land stolen from them.
you know musician and actor Troy Kingi appears in photographs as the main
character’s deceased father? Kingi and on-screen widow Minne Driver came
together to record a cover of Vance Joy’s Saturday Sun for the film’s
soundtrack, an acoustic version playing during the film’s closing scene.
heart-warming and heart-wrenching Uproar stars Dennison as Josh Waaka, a
teenage misfit too afraid to make waves in his life.
the 1981 Springbok tour arrives in New Zealand – a pivotal moment in the country’s
history, communities divided and games disrupted or cancelled as thousands took
a stand against apartheid in South Africa – Josh finds himself pulled three
rugby-mad St Gilbert’s School for Men has banned its students from protesting
the tour. Josh is willing to go against this directive as he finds belonging
with a group of Maori rights activists – identifying with their cause opposing
racism not just in South Africa, but New Zealand as well.
is, until mother Shirley (Driver) tells him going against the school will
jeopardise the family.
by both sides of the family because of the interracial union between Josh’s
British mother and Maori father, and with both his dad and older brother Jamie
(James Rolleston) being stand-out stars in the school’s First XV rugby team in
their day – his family has been relying on the school’s support to survive.
as Josh struggles to fill his dad and brother’s rugby boots, drama teacher
Madigan (Rhys Darby) sees potential in his acting ability and encourages him to
audition for placement in a performing arts school.
to reconcile with these opposing forces is what finally pushes Josh off the
fence, and demonstrates how much of a difference one person can make in their
film never loses its sense of humour as it provides a nuanced look at the
attitudes surrounding the Springbok tour – from the unblinking, opposing
stances of the Maori rights activists and St Gilbert’s principal; to
self-confessed “coward” Madigan hiding his support for the protests; to the
tour nearly tearing the Waaka family apart.
Bennett says, “As much as it’s a coming-of-age story for a young boy, it’s a
coming-of-age story about a country as well.”
concluded his question-and-answer session on opening night by expressing a
desire to make a film starring the Cook Islands, in heavy collaboration with
the people who have called the sub-tropical group of islands home for many
such a film has the potential to be of the same calibre as Uproar, it’s
an exciting prospect.