Trouble is my Business

We had a friend come to stay and he popped this doco into our CD player and encouraged us to watch it. Now I am a total novice to non-Discovery Channel and non BBC or CNN doco’s. So the quality and style of this doco took  me quite by surprise and left me thinking about it for days afterwards.

What I loved most about this doco was the camera work. Juliette Veber did an excellent job. Right through the movie I was continuously thinking that this camera should not be here. I do not know if it was for artistic reasons or just the HD-cam approach, but from time to time I noticed that perhaps the top of someone’s head was not entirely in the frame or something similar. When this happened it served to remind me that this is someone else’s personal story and that really it is none of my business. But this is exactly the point, we need to make this our business, we need to understand, embrace and celebrate the diversity of our Kiwi cultures.

Trouble is my Business follows the journey of a south Auckland school, focusing primarily on its Tongan, Samoan and Maori students. The journey is portrayed through the employment of their deputy head, a rather unique and unorthodox character called Mr Peach. The school has trouble with wagging (truancy), it is Mr Peach’s job to deal with this and the many other problems which arise in his multi-ethnic high school which is blessed with a large number of poorer immigrants.

It appears that Juliette Veber quietly over the period of a year was able to capture one hang of a lot of the school’s fabric on film. Juliette and co-producer Vicky Pope somehow managed to turn this into a remarkable ‘fly on the wall’ collage of the lives of struggling children. Watching Mr Peach at work was inspiring, but what spoke most to me was the complicated cross-cultural struggles of the adolescent children.

What spoke to me most was following the lives of Jesse, who eventually was forced to find an alternative education, and Mosese. The common thread that I saw with most of the boys in this movie was that they had no idea how to positively express their emotions. Often they had abusive fathers who taught them that violence is acceptable. Especially with Jesse, Juliette and Vicky gifted us with insight to his struggle, knowing that violence was not the answer, but not knowing another way. Usually his answer was his default drive of smashing someone. Jesse is probably deemed by society as a bad kid. But the more I watched him the more I understood that these kids are good kids. And perhaps under different parenting, in a different environment their lives would be very different.

I also respected Mosese and his loyalty to his family and friends. It was beautiful to watch his relationship with Mr Peach change from one of fear and mistrust to mutual respect. Mr Peach’s gift was more than just knowing Pacific Island culture, it was his ability to value individual teenagers for who they were. His love for them covered a multitude of their sins and enabled him to find and encourage to the surface their positive attributes. This is something we can all learn from.

Finally, I think where Juliette and Vicky succeed most in this film was that they managed to share the journey in such a way that we the viewers are not forced to take sides. I was left with compassion, respect and admiration for both the teachers and the kids. Remember that I am quite ignorant to this genre of film. But I really enjoyed that the story told itself and allowed me to interact emotionally with the movie to a level that I could cope with. Well done Juliette and Vicky.

This movie is a must watch for any Kiwi or anyone who either works cross-culturally or with children. It was a beautiful emotion-scape of cinematography.

To find out more about the movie check out its website . It will not be on television and will be showing in Dunedin, August 3, 3:30pm and August 5, 11:45am at the Rialto. GO SEE IT.

Cheers Kel
P.S. this review was written with the aid of an expresso coffee and Ben Throp’s wonderful Kiwi music.

The World’s Fastest Indian

It feels like a lot has happened in the two weeks since I watched this movie. But the warm fuzzy feeling of The World’s Fastest Indian still lingers.

I am not too sure what made this movie leave such a warm lasting presence on me, maybe when I watched it, I just felt like a Kiwi among Kiwi’s or maybe it really was “One Hell of a Good True Story”. Whatever, it rates very highly in my list of recently watched movies.

The story is about a Southlander call Burt Munro. The Burt in the movies seems to be a little eccentric and majorly lovable. He buys and old Indian motorbike, tweaks it a little and wins a land speed record on it. The movie is based on a true story, though there seems to have been a few extra characters thrown in for good measure.

I relate to the story and particularly the Burt character, because his experiences as a Kiwi abroad seem to be so stereotypically similar to my own and probably similar to countless other OE’ed Kiwi’s.

Though I cannot help but think his Southland accent and especially his R’s were slightly screwed up, Anthony Hopkins really did an excellent job. He really portrayed the naivety, simplicity and slackness of Kiwi culture well. He reminded me of a few neighbours and friends.

I really enjoyed the acting of Chris Williams. Chris played the role of a rather endearing and helpful transsexual called Tina. Though his resent movie Dodge Ball was fairly terrible. Annie Whittle also stared well as the compassionate and almost gentle girlfriend of Burt’s. Thirteen year old Aaron Murphy who either played the roll of Tom or Sam. It all depends on what version of the dismal TWFI’s websites you read. Whatever, his acting was good and he played another of the cast’s lovable characters.

The extra characters didn’t interest me that much; I thought the movie possibly could have done without them, though they did keep this road movie moving. I would have loved to have seen a little more, well actually anything about his trip home. This is not just a boy’s motorbike movie. Women hire it, buy it, you will enjoy it as well!

Well done Antony, Chris, Annie, Aaron and the many extra’s for making an average and interesting road story into a very good and well worth watching “hell of a good true story”
7 out of 10.

Oh check out this Burt Munro info page.

Swiming Upstream

Well a movie to review. But this review will be a short one. Swimming Upstream was a wonderful “coming of age” Australian Movie, based in the 1950’s with good acting, a good story and it addressed good social issues. It is actually a true story based on the life of Tony Fingleton. I had never heard of him before either.

The storyline is basically as follows. Alcoholic Father pushes his sons to excel in swimming. Anymore and I will spoil the story. But included in that storyline is a hard look at social issues like alcoholism, domestic violence, self esteem, competitive parents of sporting kids, victim mentality and much more. The story is very emotional, quite sad, but with a positive spin to it.

It is an excellent movie to show to youth groups, orphanages etc.

It is worth mentioning the acting of Judy Davis who plays the role of the wife and mother. I have only seen her in one other role and that there she also played a rather worn out looking mother. But she does it well; maybe soon I will see her in a leading role.

We purchased the movie from our local Rimi for I think five Litas. But you can buy it from its official website.
My rating for the movies is 6 out of 10. It almost hurts me to give it such a low rating. But it is personal taste and I like a different genre of movie, check out “You Have To Not Watch This Movie”. But it is a wonderful Sunday night DVD with the family. has a post called “How will history judge us?” that’s worth checking out…

Scottish and Wonderful

If you have Scottish ancestry, have visited Scotland, heard of Scotland or haven’t even thought about it, then you will like this good ole fashioned feel good true story.

In case you haven’t already guessed, this movie titled “My Life So Far” is based in Scotland, complete with accents, kilts, banter and blether. The only thing lacking and for some of you this will be good news, is the over use of the bagpipes.

The lead role is played by a bairn, we’an or whatever your culture calls a child. But don’t let this put you off. Robbie Norman who I have never heard of before or since does an excellent job of playing Fraser Pettigrew, a kinda cool and snooty boy growing through his hormonally-unbalanced years. His on screen father Edward played by Colin Firth is a loveable and some what useless character who also contributes a notable performance. Irčne Jacob, playing the role of Fraser’s uncle’s fiancée-come wife whose performance can best be described as stereotypically movie French, seemed to slot in easily to her unconventional fun loving and slightly rebellious character. The only player to let down the side was Fraser’s rather flimsy mother Moira, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Her Scottish accent sounds distinctively North American.

The story pretty much follows the life of Fraser from a baby scaling buildings to an adolescent discovering his sexuality. The movie portrays very well a healthy relationship between an imperfect father and his imperfect son. It clearly depicts Fraser searching for himself and his independent role in life as his father is pushed out from the centre of his universe and replaced by the earthly fruits that the world has to offer.

My favourite scene in the movie would have to be where Edward, whilst walking to church is sent home to look for his son. Upon entering the home he hears the evil voice of Louis Armstrong coming from his lounge room. He quietly enters the room to see his young son listening to this forbidden music supplied by his French aunt, smoking a cigar, drinking what looks like Bailey’s Irish Cream and looking at pornography. Rather than rebuke his already rebelling son he chooses to give him a little space to grow up and quietly leaves the room. Good parenting, bad parenting; your choice.

And my other favourite scene was watching and listening to the cooks blether away whilst plucking chooks. Maybe today Scottish women have given up on plucking chickens but I know for sure your average Scot still definitely hasn’t given up on the wee blether. This scene made me quite homesick for the country that was once my home.

“My Life So Far” is safe to watch with friends and respected company alike. Really it is a pretty safe movie. I rate the movie 5 out of 10 or maybe 6, this would be the nicest Scottish movie that I have seen, but it scores low because it just lacks the angst and depression that seem to create the great story lines that I find synonymous with the high quality of the Scottish film industry.


Q: What do you get when you cross a murder, a musical, death row and Denmark?

A: Dancer in the Dark an excellent movie, but that kind of excellent movie that you just don’t need to watch.

I do not know if what made this movie so good was Bjork’s amazing acting or her ice thawing singing. But from start to finish in a thoroughly chilling way playing Selma the deranged, beautiful, totally out for lunch, artistic and loyal solo mum, she was nothing short of awesome. Catherine Deneuve playing her faithful friend and Aunt was also superb.

The movie is based in Washington, USA and but was filmed in Denmark and totally lacked the standard European racism toward Americans.

Selma was a young romantic immigrant artistic mother. She worked in a factory making sinks; her two passions in life were dancing and saving for her son’s eye operation. It just so as happens that her neighbour/landlord decides that he wants the money more. In desperation and confusement after being provoked the now almost blind Selma kills him.

It seemed like everyone was so nice to Selma, everyone seemed to want to help her. But in what I would describe in a totally Eastern European stubborn way she was unable to accept the hand that was feeding her. With a softer honest heart she could have saved herself, but she couldn’t drop her communist legacy and trust. Trust in her friends, the healthcare system (pre Clinton) or the court system. Her lack of trust killed her.

The movie starts with five minutes of silent abstract art and finishes rather abstractly with a gallows scene that will be screaming around in my head for quite some time.

If the movie wasn’t already weird and disturbing enough, well following Selma’s fantasy life was. She was obsessed with musicals. It seemed like every time the movie peaked and climaxed as it often did, she would disappear into her fantasy world. Then we would be subject to Grease like scenes of Selma and who ever she was with dancing and singing. They were both excruciatingly painful and brilliant. Bjork has a wonderful voice, but you couldn’t hear her due to the anticipation of not knowing what horror was waiting at the end of her fantasy.

This is a movie that you just have not to watch. Don’t miss it, don’t invite your friends to watch it with you and don’t watch it alone. It is weird, way left of centre but excellent. 15 out of 10.