Lee Tamahori

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7.4 Once Were Warriors (1994)
5.5 Mulholland Falls (1996)
5.0 Along Came A Spider (2001)
5.0 Die Another Day (2002)
5.0 XXX: State of the Union (2005)
5.0 Next (2007)
5.0 The Devil's Double (2011)

Lee Tamahori (New Zealand, 1950), following Thunderbox (1989), made a powerful domestic drama, Once Were Warriors (1994), adapted from a novel by Alan Duff, about a Maori family that lives in a city, notable for its brutal, documentary-like realism in the tradition of Italian neo-realism. The film opens in an urban area taken over by black gangs A woman in the country side reads a fairy tale to her children. Back in the ghetto, a police raid takes place. Back in the country home, the head of the family comes home with a special present and behaves like a loving husband to his wife. Beth and Jake are Maoris who live in a city of New Zealand with five children. Their teenage daughter, Grace, brings food to a homeless kid who sleeps under a bridge. One of the teenage kids arrested at the raid is delivered by the police to Beth: it is her son Boogie. At a Maori party Jake witnesses a brawl. Jake is unemployed and seems to devote his life to drinking with friends. He causes the next brawl, and his level of brutality easily beats the previous one. When Beth arrives, Jake dances and sings romantically with her. But minutes later he is beating her savagely. And then he rapes her. The children can hear everything upstairs but all they can do is cry, hugging their elder sister. The following morning Grace cleans up the mess, while her mother can barely stand up and speak. Their elder son, Nig, leaves the family and is initiated to a face-tattoing gang through a bloody ritual. Basically, he has found a new family. Jake does not talk to him, part because of male rivarly and part because of disappointment that Nig does not want to emulate his father (for what his father is worth). Their teenage son Boogie ends up in a state institution run by a Maori himself. All it takes is a bit of money and good mood and Beth is happy again with her husband. They go on a picnic with Grace and the two little children. Under the guidance of the Maori guardian of the prison, Boogie actually rediscovers the pride of his ancestal people. The idyllic day with Jake ends in misery for Beth because Jake prefers to go drink with his buddies than go visit Boogie with the children. Jake and the children have to walk back home because Jake won't even drive them. One night their uncle rapes Grace, the sweet one of the family. He asks her to shut up and, surprisingly, she does. She runs out of the house and goes to see her homeless friend. But the moment he touches her, she runs away disgusted, no matter how sorrowful he looks. Grace wanders through the city alone. When she comes home, she finds Jake drinking with friends. Jake screams at her and almost beats her for refusing to kiss her uncle. Terrified, Grace hangs herself. When she goes home after spending the night with Grace at the hospital, Beth finds Jake drunk and asleep. Beth tells him that she has decided to move out with the children and return to their ancestral home. Beth and the children bury Grace in the village, and then restart a family, even the tattooed gangster and the homeless kid, while Jake is drinking as usual with the "uncle". The children ask Beth to read a fairy tale from the book that Grace used to read. Beth opens it and reads something terrible in it. She coldly tells the elder son Nig to get in the car. They drive back to the city, to the bar where Jake is drinking as usual with his friends. Beth accuses the uncle in front of everybody. Jake is ready to defend his brother and beat Beth. But Nig, full of hatred for his father, stops him and hands him the book where Grace wrote the story of her rape. Furious, Jake attacks his brother, ready to kill him. But Beth is no longer interested in all that violence. She simply walks out on them. Jake in vain screams that she will be back: he has nothing that Beth wants. Beth and the children go back home, their ancestral home, and leave Jake to compete for survival in the city.

Mulholland Falls (1996)

The Edge (1997)

Along Came a Spider (2001)

Die Another Day (2002)

XXX - State of the Union (2005)

Next (2007)

The Devil's Double (2011)

Mahana (2016)

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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