Nostalgia flourishes in moving drama
PG, 1hr 40min
Reviewed by Katy Breheny.
Mt Zion is as heartening as a bowl of boil-up and just as satisfying. Few audience members will go home unmoved.
Turei (Stan Walker) may be a young man from a small town, but he has big dreams about escaping from a life of drudgery harvesting potatoes under the iron thumb of his father (Temuera Morrison).
Small-town Pukekohe in the late 1970s is short on opportunities, so when a competition is held to find an opening act for Bob Marley's Auckland concert, contenders come from far and wide.
With a golden voice and bros to scheme with, strum with and have his back, Turei just knows he is in with a chance to make a name for himself.
Throwing caution and whanau responsibility to the winds, Turei takes his band, Small Axe, to the stage and teeters on the brink of stardom.
As the winds of fortune seem to be blowing his way, Turei faces decisions that affect not just his home and community but his integrity.
Those who remember the 1970s will find the backdrop to this movie a trip down memory lane.
No detail is too small, down to a reappearance of those good old brown and purple $1 and $2 notes.
Yes, some of us really did grow up in streets that unremarkable and lived mostly an outdoor existence under a hot sun without a laptop, cellphone or X-Box in sight.
Bathing in a water tank may not have been as commonplace, but it is a quirky addition to the film.
Written and directed by Te Arepa Kahi, Mt Zion captures rural marae-based life with an authenticity that is heartfelt. The stories murmuring under the surface are intriguing.
Family tensions will engage you as much if not more so than the main storyline, and there is plenty of room there for a churr, churr, bro, as well as a few tears to be shed.
This is the first time Walker has featured on screen and it is clear that he is not primarily an actor.
However, he is very watchable.
Some of his dialogue is clunky and at times his musical performance is too polished for the story line. Temuera Morrison as a broken-down old man is also perhaps not the greatest casting.
Too often the movie set pays a bit too much attention to itself, being too posed, picturesque, nostalgic and a bit distracting. This is not a slick Hollywood piece.
However, it is something much better, with flavours that New Zealanders can identify and own, and it is well worth the time to savour and enjoy it.