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London Film Festival Review: The Dead Lands

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★★★☆☆

The Dead Lands is an extremely violent action drama set in a pre-colonial New Zealand. Maori warfare is the topic and what a brutal and visceral topic it is too. But as well as warring tribes and limb hacking, this is also a coming of age story. Sixteen-year-old Hongi (James Rolleston) is not viewed as a competent warrior by his tribal chieftain father Tane (George Henare). As the film develops, he is taught combat techniques by a newfound instructor and his world intensifies.

I had some big problems with the narrative’s coherence and although it isn’t a particularly long film the arm slashing and bloodletting does go on for quite some time. Of course, all this is an effort to create a sense of realism and to conjure up an atmosphere faithful to the setting and period. Though not the most enjoyable slice of entertainment, this is still an eye-opening look at Maori tribal life – an area of history frequently neglected by cinema.   

The Dead Lands (2014), directed by Toa Fraser, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2014. To buy tickets go to whatson.bfi.org.uk. Watch the trailer below:




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