Good publicity for Invercargill

Last month, Two Little Boys faced its ultimate test of popularity or rejection as it was released in 60 theatres throughout New Zealand, writes Tim Shadbolt in Southern Focus.

Some film critics have panned the film and others have praised it but I doubt the demographic of those considering watching the film will be swayed either way by film critics. It's a bogan film. It's about young men. Mates. Blokes. Buddies.

It's not often that films are made about male relationships. It's usually boy/girl, girl/boy, boy/girl/boy or some cross-gender combination. Nor is it a Brokeback Mountain film.

The question is asked, 'Are you guys gay?'. Deano and Nige respond with normal homophobic outrage 'hell no!' But if you can work your way past the swearing, the criminal hit and run, and the immature, hoonish behaviour of the "Two Little Boys", the film does explore some interesting themes and beautifully portrays the magnificent scenery and wildlife of the Catlins.

The male bonding of Deano and Nige, forged in the battlegrounds of primary school bullying suddenly starts to come unstuck. As with many marriages, they simply grow apart.

Nige wants to explore different lifestyles, he wants to make new friends and visit other places, like Dunedin and even the North Island. Deano desperately wants to maintain the status quo and rigidly enforce a 'buddy' system that many armies throughout the world have adopted. Many soldiers are reluctant to face the horrors of war for king and country, but they will fight to protect their mates.

For Deano, the reality of life can be answered by one simple question 'would you take a bullet for me?'.

If the answer is 'yes' then he will willingly do 15 years in Invercargill jail for Nige. In his heart, Nige knows that at the last second he would dodge the bullet but rather unconvincingly he decides to avoid jail time and lie.

One aspect of the film that I did find a little disturbing was when Deano decided that Gavin was such a threat to his relationship with Nige that he would have to murder him; both he and the audience were overwhelmed with happiness. Each new fantasy of how he would murder Gavin generated ecstatic squeals of delight. I couldn't help wondering how many Kiwis have at some time in their lives fantasised about murdering someone who has really upset or threatened them.

The film provides us with a sharp contrast to The World's Fastest Indian. There are no heroes and the feel-good factor is replaced by the more sinister cloak of black humour.

On balance, however, I still believe it will help put Invercargill on the map in a generally positive way.

The film opens with a magnificent crane shot of the Boer War statue and the inspiring military music of the Invercargill March. It's probably the first time Alex Lithgow's internationally famous march has been used in a full- length feature film and it set the tone just perfectly.

Viewers will recognise many other famous Kiwi songs throughout the movie.

The helicopter shots along the Southern Scenic Route were breathtaking and it's hard to believe that many of the lighthouse shots were actually fake concrete and timber sets built by SIT students.

Finally, if anyone over 16 is deeply disturbed by the film, try not to forget that it's not true. It's not a story about Burt Munro. There was no Swedish backpacker run over when a bloke called Nige dropped a hot pie on his testicles. Deano didn't cut up the body with an axe and Gavin never rode on a Hector's dolphin in Curio Bay. Nor did he publish a poetry book about his experiences that was promoted by the mayor of Invercargill. It's pure, unadulterated fiction, written and filmed for the entertainment of young males.

It generated $13.1 million within our local economy, provided a great work experience for many students, was most entertaining for all the extras involved, and brilliantly portrayed our local environment.

Within the confines of that perspective, it was a great movie and a fabulous world premiere for our city.

» Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill.

The Southland Times