It starts on an Invercargill street late at night with a hot pie, a ginger cat, and a distracted driver in a yellow Ford Laser. The next 100 or so minutes of Two Little Boys takes viewers on a road trip of sorts, following the misadventures of two best friends as they fall apart, head for the coast, and attempt to dispose of a body. Kimberley Crayton-Brown talks to the brothers behind Southland's latest starring role.
For the Sarkies brothers, the premiere of their first team effort was like being at a game of rugby, not a film festival screening.
It was a positive thing - like a game they were winning. Director Robert describes the 1999 premiere of Scarfies at Dunedin's Regent Theatre as a wonderful experience.
The 1800-strong audience loved seeing their stomping ground on film, from the opening scene where the city is laid out before you to the grungy student flats the city is famous for.
The lively, jovial crowd were vocal in their appreciation, feeling a strong connection to the film that showcased so many familiar sights and sites, and a student lifestyle experienced by thousands.
A fun atmosphere, one audience member and Dunedinite says, and an uplifting experience.
It is this same connection to the sites and scenery that will make Two Little Boys popular - not only the audience's connection to what they are seeing, but the connection that both writer Duncan and director Robert have to the places the film features.
It is a connection they hope will inspire the same crowd reactions as Scarfies did, where people embrace the film and collectively celebrate what was made in the region.
Starting with the rainy streets of Invercargill, the film takes in some of the region's most impressive scenery as the main characters - Nige (Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords) and Deano (Hamish Blake, Hamish and Andy and Rove Live) - work out how best to dispose of the body of a Scandinavian football player Nige accidentally hit with his car, all while trying to keep mate Gav (Maaka Pohatu) from finding out.
When the crew was packing up and preparing to leave the region last February, Robert said he felt they had something quite special. With a large part of the movie filmed outdoors the production team had to deal with the region's notoriously unpredictable weather, but even that looked great on film, Robert said.
Holidaying in the Catlins as kids, the Sarkies will no doubt share similar memories to many southerners - and tourists from farther afield - who have travelled the Southern Scenic Route or camped out on the coast.
"It's like flicking through someone's photo album," Robert says of the film.
The stunning backdrop to the trio's road trip is as much a character of the film as Bret, Hamish, and Maaka are. Curio Bay, the Cathedral Caves, Jack's Blowhole, even the Waikawa information centre makes an appearance, and the wildlife captured on film illustrates why the region is an increasingly popular - yet still quite hidden - tourist destination.
Duncan says it is the first time the Catlins has been in a film, and he hopes the locals don't hate that their area is no longer a secret, while predicting the film could benefit tourism in the area.
"I hope people from Invercargill and the Catlins embrace the imagery."
Those who know the area well may also wonder why Cosy Nook, a small cove of tiny cribs on a different coast, is apparently in the Catlins, Robert says.
"It was so beautiful we couldn't resist it. We have, of course, taken some liberties with geography."
While the film will be released in cinemas around the country on September 20, the story itself was born several years ago.
The project started when Robert asked his younger brother to write something based on an idea he had.
"What if friendship was like a marriage, and we take two guys and have them flatting together in an intense situation? Just like a marriage except for the sex. Like blood brothers.
"What happens when your friendship dissolves? Marriage is easy, you get a divorce. Friendships aren't supposed to dissolve."
Beginning with a script, Duncan showed it to publishers Penguin where it was felt it would make a great novel. Thinking the book would make a great movie, the brothers spent the next three years turning the Dunedin-based book (Two Little Boys released in 2008) into a film set in Invercargill.
And while the film is "very definitely different from the book" the core storyline is the same, Robert says.
With some of 1992's finest fashions and hairstyles and a great soundtrack, the film has a very Kiwi feel to it - even if one of the leads is an Aussie. "It has these very generic Kiwi characters in it. The film is probably much more Kiwi than I expected it to be," Robert says.
Southerners will no doubt enjoy picking out all of the places - and faces - they recognise, with dozens of extras roles played by locals. "It's always quite weird, isn't it, seeing your hometown on film?" Robert says.
"I guess it's not weird if you live in LA and you are used to seeing that. Maybe Invercargill is the same, it is the film capital. Maybe Invercargill people will be very blase about it.
Every single film they go to at the multiplex is a local effort with Tim Shadbolt in it," he jokes.
Films are not made every day, and they certainly don't happen in Invercargill all the time, so the shooting of a large feature film in the city was a big opportunity, he says.
Pre-production on the film began in Invercargill in November 2010, with the seven-week shoot running through January and February. A crew of more than 80 people was based in the south during the shoot, and more than $2 million was spent in the region during that period. Interns from the Southern Institute of Technology were selected to work on the film, with many going on to work on other major film and television projects in New Zealand.
This is the second time the brothers have collaborated on a feature film - and they may, or may not, be working on a top-secret third - but as a schoolboy Duncan never envisaged they would work together.
He has no idea how they work together so successfully. "Put it this way: you have to turn into a good communicator . . . You have to be careful to make sure that any disagreement is about the work itself. It really helps that Robert and I are so respectful of each other's opinion."
There were times when his first reaction to something his brother raised may have been to disagree, but he had to hear him out, Duncan says. "I would be such a fool not to listen to an aesthetic that I respect so much."
The first time it worked was when they teamed up for Scarfies, Robert says.
"Who knows why it worked but it did. When you find a collaboration that works, be it sibling or other, in the arts it would behove you to stick with it. You can spend a lifetime looking for the right directing partner or writing partner."
It's not something theywill "just give up" doing either.
"We plan to keep making stuff, and keep making good stuff, and putting it in front of audiences in New Zealand," Robert says.
Although next week will not be the world premiere - Two Little Boys was selected for competition at the Berlin International Film Festival in February - it will be the first official premiere, held almost two years after the first crew members arrived in the south for pre-production.
They are "super excited" about what is happening for the event, Robert says. "We've got the Civic Theatre, which to me is just an incredible honour. We are installing the same 35mm film equipment used for The World's Fastest Indian, the full red carpet."
Media from all over the country will be here for the event, with live-crosses on three networks, he says.
"It is quite a big deal."
He hopes people will show up for the entertainment around the red carpet, with Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and Southland band Rhythmonyx performing. It will also be a chance for people to see the stars and makers of the film on the red carpet.
"That is the whole point of us bringing the premiere to Invercargill - to be accessible; for us all to celebrate and embrace the whole thing together."
And for those who had tickets to the pre-screening cocktail function, they would have another chance to mingle. "Tim Shadbolt will be there too, so if anyone has got a problem with their sewerage or water they can grab him for a quick word."
While the film is pitched as a black comedy, Robert jokingly hopes any global release will offer a level of education for overseas backpackers heading down under. "Look both ways when crossing the road. The streets might look empty, but you never know where a yellow Ford Laser may come from at night."
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