Myth Mak­ers

Maori movie chan­nels the Dark Knight

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red alert -

The son of a Fi­jian fa­ther and an English mother, Toa Fraser en­joyed tales from both Euro­pean and Pa­cific folk­lore as a child. Now the Dean Span­ley direc­tor has chan­nelled that her­itage into The Dead Lands, a Maori mar­tial arts movie that takes place in a myth­i­cal, pre- colo­nial New Zealand.

“Dad would tell us not only sto­ries about Ulysses and Dakuwaqa, the Fi­jian shark god, but also ghost sto­ries and leg­ends from our own fam­ily that were painted in myth,” he tells Red Alert. “We had a re­ally strong con­nec­tion to the spirit world that was a real part of our life and not some­thing that you’d view as sort of spooky.”

With its elab­o­rate fight se­quences, The Dead Lands has been com­pared to Apoca­lypto and Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon, although Fraser adopted a more earthy ap­proach. “More than any­thing that was a touch­stone to push against,” he ar­gues. “I loved the el­e­gance, grace and mag­i­cal mys­ti­cism of Crouch­ing Tiger’s wire- work but, for me, The Dead Lands was all about get­ting away from wires and do­ing some­thing that had a foot in the spirit world. That kind of nat­u­ral re­la­tion­ship be­tween the mor­tal and im­mor­tal worlds is still very real to us in the Pa­cific. At the same time, I wanted it to feel very mus­cu­lar and lean as I wanted to get my hands dirty.”

Re­veal­ing that Bat­man: Year One was an­other ref­er­ence point, Fraser be­lieves that The War­rior ( Lord Of The Rings’ Lawrence Makoare) and Hongi ( James Rolle­ston) are sim­i­lar to Bat­man and Robin. “They’re like the dy­namic duo,” he says. “The War­rior is like this vul­ner­a­ble su­per­hero, the guy who can get in­jured and is a sort of out­cast living on the edge of a so­ci­ety in this very dank, dis­so­lute kind of world.”

The Dead Lands is in cine­mas and on de­mand from 29 May. The Dead Lands will draw on Pa­cific folk­lore.

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