The opening shot of The Dark Horse, a rainbow quilt in a downpour of rain, sets the scene for the glorious patchwork that is to come. It’s not long before the central character, Chess enters the picture, as Genesis Potini (Gen) finds a moment of refuge in a curios store.
In The Dark Horse, writer and director James Napier Roberts leads us gently on a journey of contrasts - community and surrender and humility, rage and angst and pain. More than a familiar story about overcoming challenges, The Dark Horse is a tale that is interwoven with Maori spirituality and storytelling and the courage to find a purpose despite adversity. With his holding of the Chess King, Gen accepts a commitment in leadership that takes his team on to victory, but also gives him and the club members so much more.
Robert’s use of light in the film, is one of the most endearing ways that we are given promise. Light heralds Gen’s moments of inner peace, and announces each time he makes a leap forward. The silhouettes of cinematography that portray his shadows, slowly give way as he finds his path. Sounds overlay connected tensions, and add to the rolling ebb and flow between the factions of Gen’s reality, present and past.
Yet what truly shines is the acting. It’s a strong cast with Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider and Boy), James Rollston (Boy) and Kirk Torrence (Outrageous Fortune) all lending power to their roles.
The Dark Horse opened the New Zealand International Film Festival this July, and was an official selection at The Toronto Film Festival. Lauded as one of the best films that New Zealand has ever produced; it opens in Australia on 20th November. Based on the life of the real man, this is a truly inspiring story of hope and faith, sensitively told.