I sought out this film because it starred James Rolleston who was so good in both ‘Boy’ and ‘The Dark Horse’. In this film he plays the son of a tribal chief who looks for peace between the villages only to be double crossed. It is left to the son, Hongi, to restore the honour of his people by tracking down the warriors who attacked his village in the dead of night.
To find them, he must cross the Dead Lands, so-called because a whole tribe died out there and the souls of their dead lay in wait for anyone who enters.
Hongi is not a proficient fighter but he understands his duty so he does not shy away from tracking down the killers of his father. On his travels he meets an old warrior who has the reputation as a man-eating monster. Hongi’s youth and his relative innocence leads him to seek help from this man rather than fear him and since the old man is, himself, in need of redemption, he agrees to go with him.
The film is quite violent; the body count is high even though the paddle like weapons look deceptively harmless. The dialogue is in the Maori language and the scenery is amazing but it is the performance of Rolleston that gives the film its heart. Trying to do the right thing and knowing that a man braver and stronger than he would do better, he completes his task with honour.
‘The Dead Lands’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?