|Directed by||Geoff Murphy|
|Produced by||Geoff Murphy|
|Written by|| Geoff Murphy |
|Starring|| Anzac Wallace |
Wi Kuki Kaa
|Music by||John Charles|
|Edited by||Michael J. Horton|
|Box office||NZ $600,000 (est) (New Zealand)|
Utu is a 1983 New Zealand film directed and co-written by Geoff Murphy. Anzac Wallace, who had done little acting up until that point, takes the starring role of Te Wheke, a warrior who sets out to get vengeance after British forces kill his people. The cast also includes Bruno Lawrence and Kelly Johnson. Sometimes described as "a Maori Western", Utu was reputed to have one of the largest budgets for a New Zealand film up until that time.
Geoffrey Peter Murphy was a New Zealand filmmaker, as a producer, director and screenwriter best known for his work during the renaissance of New Zealand cinema that began in the last half of the 1970s. His second feature Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) was the first New Zealand film to win major commercial success on its own soil. Murphy directed several Hollywood features during the 1990s, before returning to New Zealand as second-unit director on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Murphy was also at different times a scriptwriter, special effects technician, schoolteacher and trumpet player.
Bruno Lawrence was a British and New Zealand musician and actor.
The filmscreened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival,and became the second most successful local movie released in New Zealand to that date. Positive reviews in America, including a rave review from Pauline Kael, helped win Murphy directing work in Hollywood.
The 36th Cannes Film Festival was held from 7 to 19 May 1983. The Palme d'Or went to the Narayama Bushiko by Shōhei Imamura.
Pauline Kael was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused" reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era.
Partly inspired by events from Te Kooti's War, the film tells of a Māori soldier setting out to get utu, or vengeance, on his former allies after the British army destroys his home village and kills his uncle. The film is set in the 1870s.
Te Kooti's War was among the last of the New Zealand wars, the series of 19th century conflicts between the Māori and the colonising European settlers. It was fought in the East Coast region and across the heavily forested central North Island and Bay of Plenty between New Zealand government military forces and followers of spiritual leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki.
The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300. Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Māori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced; later, a prominent warrior culture emerged.
Utu is a Māori concept of reciprocation or balance.
In 2013, partly thanks to the longtime existence of an alternative cut of the film aimed at international audiences, which Geoff Murphy had never been happy with, he completed work on a restored and recut version. Utu Redux, as it is known, premiered at the Wellington International Film Festival on 26 July 2013.
Set in New Zealand's North Island during the New Zealand Wars, Utu follows Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace), a Maori Captain in the British army. When Te Wheke's unit comes across a village that has been slaughtered he, recognising it as his own, deserts the army and organises a guerilla force to terrorise the invading British forces. When the unit destroys the home of Williamson (Bruno Lawrence) and kills his wife, Williamson vows to hunt down Te Wheke and kill him himself. Meanwhile, army scout Wiremu (Wi Kuki Kaa) and recent Boer War veteran Lieutenant Scott (Kelly Johnson) aim to track down Te Wheke themselves, also using guerilla warfare techniques against the will of corrupt Colonel Elliot (Tim Eliott).
The New Zealand Wars were a series of armed conflicts that took place in New Zealand from 1845 to 1872 between the New Zealand government and the Māori people. Until at least the 1980s, European New Zealanders referred to them as the Māori wars; the historian James Belich was one of the first to refer to them as the "New Zealand wars", in his 1987 book The New Zealand wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict.
Anzac Hohepa Wallace, also known as Zac Wallace, born Norman Pene Rewiri, was a New Zealand actor and former trade union delegate. He is best known for his role as Te Wheke in the 1983 New Zealand film Utu.
Tim Eliott (1935–2011) was a New Zealand actor. His mother died when he was one and he was brought up by aunts and grandparents until he joined his father in England after the war where he went to public schools in Bath and Bristol. He returned to New Zealand in 1950.
Wi Kuki Kaa was a New Zealand actor in film, theatre and television. He was from the Maori tribes of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu.
Production of Utu was one of the largest film productions to have taken place in new Zealand until that point. Its grand scale warranted the use of a large second unit, which again was rare in the context of a young New Zealand cinema.
During production Murphy was very interested in authenticity, trying to keep it as period accurate as possible. To accomplish this many of the extras used were local Maori and in order for Te Wheke's moko to look realistic, Anzac Wallace would spend 4 hours having it applied each day of shooting.
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The film's immediate reception was less positive than Murphy's earlier works, although still positive. Locally the film was very commercially successful, being New Zealand's second highest-grossing film at the time (behind Murphy's previous effort, Goodbye Pork Pie ).
Critically the film had a mixed positive reception. Filmmaker Costa Botes noted that “Utu’s shotgun approach to the great New Zealand film ultimately leaves it feeling episodic and tangled”. New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael however gave the film an exceptionally positive review, saying that “[Geoff Murphy] seems to be directing with a grin on his face, [...] the ferocity of these skirmishes and raids is played off against an Arcadian beauty that makes your head swim.” Similarly Variety described that “Murphy has produced powerful images and strong performances.”
The release of the film prompted public discussion of a revisionist look at New Zealand history. Film academic Roger Horrocks pointed out that “Utu was an uneven film but succeeded in stirring up more discussion of New Zealand history than any recent book has done.”
Māori culture (Māoritanga) is indigenous to New Zealand and originated from, and is still part of, Eastern Polynesian culture. Māori culture also forms a distinctive part of New Zealand culture and is found throughout the world, due to a large diaspora and incorporation of motifs into popular culture. Within the Māori community, and to a lesser extent throughout New Zealand as a whole, the word Māoritanga is often used as an approximate synonym for Māori culture, the Māori suffix -tanga being roughly equivalent to the qualitative noun ending "-ness" in English.
Te Rauparaha was a Māori rangatira (chief) and war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe who took a leading part in the Musket Wars. He was influential in the original sale of land to the New Zealand Company and was a participant in the Wairau Affray in Marlborough.
The Musket Wars were a series of as many as 3,000 battles and raids fought throughout New Zealand among Māori between 1807 and 1845, after Māori first obtained muskets and then engaged in an intertribal arms race in order to gain territory or seek revenge for past defeats. The battles resulted in the loss of between 20,000 and 40,000 lives and the enslavement of tens of thousands of Māori and significantly altered the rohe, or tribal territorial boundaries, before the imposition of colonial government in the 1840s. The wars are seen as an example of the "fatal impact" of indigenous contact with Europeans.
Blerta was a New Zealand musical and theatrical co-operative active in the 1970s.
Ngāti Maniapoto is an iwi (tribe) based in the Waikato-Waitomo region of New Zealand's North Island. It is part of the Tainui confederation, the members of which trace their whakapapa (genealogy) back to people who arrived in New Zealand on the waka (canoe) Tainui. The 2006 New Zealand census shows the iwi to have a membership of 33,627, making it the 7th biggest iwi in New Zealand.
Smash Palace is a New Zealand feature film, released in April 1982. The film chronicles a former race car driver who inadvertently contributes to the end of his marriage, then kidnaps his daughter. Lawrence's character runs a carwrecking yard in an isolated area of New Zealand's North Island.
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A taua is a war party in the tradition of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Contemporary knowledge of taua is gleaned from missionary observations and writings during the Musket Wars of the early 19th century and the later New Zealand wars. The reason to gather a taua may be for reasons of seeking revenge (utu) or seeking compensation for an offence against an individual, community or society (muru).
Whangaroa is a settlement on Whangaroa Harbour in the Far North District of New Zealand. It is 8 km north-west of Kaeo and 35 km north-west of Kerikeri. The harbour is almost landlocked and is popular both as a fishing spot in its own right and as a base for deep-sea fishing.
Ngati is a 1987 New Zealand feature film directed by Barry Barclay, written by Tama Poata and produced by John O'Shea.
Merata Mita was a significant filmmaker in New Zealand as well as a key figure in the growth of the Māori screen industry. Mita was from the Māori tribes of Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāi Te Rangi.
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