Maori movie channels the Dark Knight
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.