Fresh Meat not for the squeamish
A "distasteful subject tackled tastefully" is the best way to describe cannibalistic comedy Fresh Meat, says director Danny Mulheron.
Mulheron said when the idea for a movie in which a group of violent gangsters who unwittingly take a family of cannibals hostage was pitched to him, he immediately laughed.
"Briar Grace-Smith had the idea which was based on a story from a couple of Canadian kids. But [the film's producer] Dave Gibson pitched me the idea... about a dysfunctional gang, who are hopeless and inadvertently hide away in a house of upper middle class Maori family who just happen to be cannibals.
"I laughed and a laugh is worth a million bucks in this business so I thought 'yep, I'll go for that."'
Fresh Meat is Mulheron's feature film directorial debut, but he is far from inexperienced at comedy. In an acting and directing career spanning more than 20 years, Mulheron has tackled comedy and drama from almost every angle. He has written, directed and produced series from Seven periods with Mr Gormsby to consumer affairs show Target and Shortland Street.
He has also worked with Sir Peter Jackson on Meet the Feebles and A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Lover.
The movie Fresh Meat will premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival next month, and Mulheron couldn't be more excited.
"Isn't that cracker? It's a real privilege and I can't imagine a better place for it to go down because I think they'll really appreciate the humour of it."
Two fairly graphic trailers have already been released and are drawing rave reviews from many excited to see the final product. They include scenes of the family, headed by Once Were Warriors actor Temuera Morrison, sitting down to a meal.
"It's rude to sit at a Maori table and not eat," Morrison's character says to their guest, before he informs him he'd just eaten an index finger.
Another feature to wet viewer's appetite for Fresh Meat is a music video of Puha and Pakeha that hits the net today.
The song, written by Rod Derrett in the 1960s is a classic New Zealand song about Maori eating Pakeha which is being re-released next week.
Puha and Pakeha caused a stir in 2004 when a complaint that it was racist and offensive was laid after it was played on a commercial radio station. But the Broadcasting Standards Authority ruled eventually that the song could not be interpreted as encouraging the denigration of Pakeha but was clearly humorous.
Mulheron has also dismissed claims the topic of Maori cannibalism could be controversial.
"The cannibalism is a comic idea and as they say in the movie 'I'm not a Maori cannibal, I'm a cannibal that just happens to be Maori' - because cannibalism existed everywhere.
" But the cannibalism like in all films like this - they're a metaphor for consumption. This family wants things, they want wealth, they're Sweeny Todd-like. They want to make money, he wants to be a famous writer so they consume themselves."
He said he didn't believe it was controversial at all.
"Of course I don't believe it's controversial in a sense that it's a comic idea and it's done with a lot of affection."
It was filmed in Wellington last year, mostly in Churton Park and at Avalon film studios, and has been produced by the Gibson Group and funded by the New Zealand Film Commission.
Post production is now complete and the film will have two screenings at the Hawaii International Film Festival, which aims to showcase emerging films from Asia and the Pacific and top films from around the world. It runs from October 11 to 21.
Fresh Meat will be premiere in New Zealand on October 25.