Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mt Zion

Some spoilers here.

We watched Mt Zion last night, a NZ movie focused on Maori growing potatoes in Pukekohe. It’s set in the late seventies. These aren’t Maori who are struggling to make ends meet, particularly, though there is some underhand stuff going on with the pakeha owner (?) it seems; this wasn’t ever very clear. 

The main character, played by singer Stan Walker, is the musical/artistic type, a bit of a misfit in this community, where grind is the word. His father, Temuera Morrison, has a perpetual scowl on his face, and likes to work himself and his staff into the ground. His wife is a sour-faced woman who’s only warm when she’s nurturing her husband; anyone else, it seems, is out of her sightline, especially the boy, who can’t seem to do anything right for her. The older brother (or maybe he was one of the innumerable cuzzies) and his wife live in the same house. This brother is a bit more responsible, and has a very pregnant wife...who complains in one short scene about something, but it’s a bit obscure. Pretty much everyone complains in this movie. It’s as though the lifestyle is in charge; don’t try and break out of it.

Of course, the boy wants to. He’s doing some Maori carving in the tea-breaks, and has ambitions to be a singer. With his cuzzies he sings at a local bar where amateurs feature, and does very well. The owner (?), another miserable woman (what’s with the women in this movie?), says she’ll help him audition for the opening act of the Bob Marley concert that’s due to happen in Auckland in a few weeks. And she does; she’s supportive, even if she never looks happy about it. The little band does well, but of course there's a kerfuffle, and the older brother loses his job. They’re still in the running, but at the showdown between them and one other band, they’re stymied by some fuss over money that’s owed to the player who’s joined in with them for the gig ˗ remarkably he makes an enormous fuss about this just as they’re about to play, in front of the audience!

The money he gets was actually raised by an old man in the whanau to help Morrison, who’s had a bit of an accident while loading potatoes by himself. Why he’s doing this when the rest of the whanau is celebrating it’s not clear. Even more oddly, his wife throws the money straight out the window on receiving it, disgusted at being given charity. I presume. Anyway, Walker had somehow acquired it, intending to use it to pay the other musician. 

At the end of the movie there’s a big showdown: the people on the marae basically want to kick Walker out of the whanau; even his father and mother won’t stick up for him. The only person who does is a woman he’s persuaded to come back to the group to look after her little boy. And just when everything’s getting extremely overheated, Bob Marley arrives at the marae with a group, visiting! What? All the whanau hustle themselves into place and get on with the typical greeting.

Something weird is at work in the script. We’re not given enough information about these people, perhaps - or I was particularly clueless while watching in terms of picking up signals; and after having sided with the young man, who seems to be wanting to better himself, we’re expected at the end to join in the naming and shaming process the whanau indulges in. Yes, he’s made one big mistake, but the rest of what happens is mostly not his fault. Very strange.  

The music style seems anachronistic to me, but maybe I'm missing something there too, and the dialogue between the young men is often hard to pick up. They're speaking in a way that's common to young Maori now, but was it like that in the seventies? 

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