DVD Mt. Zion

DVD Mt. Zion
DVD Mt. Zion
Run time: 96 min
Rating: 5.7
Genres: Drama
Director: Te Arepa Kahi
Writers: Te Arepa Kahi
Stars: Stan Walker, Temuera Morrison, Miriama Smith
Turei’s family are hard-working potato farm workers in rural New Zealand. A talented musician, Turei dreams of his band being the support act for Bob Marley’s 1979 tour. But it’s a dream that challenges the traditions and values of his upbringing and will set him at odds with his family – particularly his father, a true man of the land. Written by Jasmin McSweeney
Country: New Zealand
Release Date: 6 February 2013 (New Zealand)


  1. Heading to the theater's, I intended on seeing Django Unchained, though to my dismay it was sold out and I had to settle for Mt. Zion. I was pleasantly surprised by this Kiwi film and what went on in Pukekohe in the 70's.

    The cinematography of this film is great. Lots of warm colours in the potato fields, along with great on-stage scenes.

    The acting was mixed with some excellent surprises (Stan Walker) and some mediocrity lower in the cast. Stan Walker was probably the best part of this movie, with the pop-star making his acting debut. His acting was genuine and his singing was incredible.

    At times the Maori accent is hard to understand (even for a New Zealander), though it makes the narrative more believable in the scheme of things.

    Apart from a quite somber mood in a lot of the movie (with all the set backs incurred by Turei), this is a nice little film that does New Zealand proud. With more humour this film could have been better, though it was still a well worth substitute on my movie going experience!

  2. Family conflicts, tradition, dreams and music are at the heart of the moderately charming New Zealand coming of age drama Mt Zion. The film is set in the rural Maori community of Pukekohe, outside Auckland, in 1979, and tells the story of Turei (2009's Australian Idol winner Stan Walker, making his film debut), whose family work on a potato farm. It's a hard way of life, and money is often short. But Turei is also an aspiring musician, who sees music as a way of escaping from this hard life. When a music promoter holds a competition to audition bands to support the legendary Bob Marley during his forthcoming tour, Turei sees an opportunity. With his older brother Hone (Troy Kingi) and his two best friends and fellow workers Reggie (David Wikaira, from Shortland Street, etc) and Pou (Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson), he puts together a band and pushes them to participate. But Turei is so driven to succeed that he makes a few choices that put him at odds with the band and his hard working father (Temuera Morrison). He lies, cheats and steals to get what he wants, which also puts him at odds with the whole community. But the film also is an examination of the prickly relationship between Turei and his traditionalist, disapproving father who has little time for his son's self-indulgent flights of fancy. Morrison, who has such an intimidating and physical presence in the classic Once Were Warriors, is again good as another strong traditional father, although his performance here is a bit more restrained and nuanced. Walker's limitations are obvious during some of the more dramatic scenes, but once he's allowed to sing he shines in a role tailor made for him. Mt Zion is the debut feature film for writer/director Tearepa Kahi, and it draws upon his own experiences and family history. He tells the story with a great deal of passion and humour, and its obvious that he feels compassion for even his flawed characters. The film consists of small vignettes that give us some insights into the strong sense of community and the daily lives and aspirations of the characters, but some of the subplots don't really go anywhere. But I felt that the central conflict was too neatly wrapped up and resolved by the end, which diluted its dramatic impact somewhat. Kahi pays attention to period detail and authenticity, and he gets the background setting right, which gives the film a sense of nostalgia. Apparently Marley's concert tour of New Zealand in 1979 was a big deal for the Kiwis, for whom Marley was something of a musical hero. And Kahi even manages to incorporate some actual archival footage of Marley himself being given a traditional welcome at a ceremony. Along with Shane McLean, Kahi has contributed some original and very catchy songs for the film's soundtrack, which includes Walker's own hit single Take It Easy. Fred Renata's cinematography captures some gorgeous vistas of lush rolling hills and gives us a superb feel for the setting. Not surprisingly, the feel good Mt Zion was a box office hit in its native New Zealand, but it is doubtful whether it will enjoy the same level of success overseas.

  3. I really quite enjoyed it – being English it was a nice thing to hear the Maori language spoken in a movie – in context too, as it would have been used more back then than it is now. Did they really say 'bro that much back then though???

    Stan Walker's not a great actor, but better than I thought he would be. Voice is great though! The other kiwi actors are good, better than Stan and everyone copes with a pretty poor script at times. Tem Morrison is a little underused.

    The band mostly look like they can play the instruments too, which is refreshing – as it adds to the reality. Musically you'll be tapping feet, if not swaying to the beats.

    Overall it's not going to win awards but the pace is just about acceptable and handling of the musical numbers is pretty good. The look captures the 70's era well, with the fantastic motor cars of the time being quintessentially NZ and adding colour and style.

  4. I'm a sucker for movies from New Zealand, which has produced some great Maori movies over the years, from the brutal Once Were Warriors and the bloodletting colonial-western Utu, to the delightful Boy and the spiritual Whale Rider.

    Alas, this one falls well short of its peers. Its portrayal of rural life in the 70s has charm but it strives a little too hard for cuteness, falling into sentimentality and idealization of poor but honest Maori family life. The story fails to fulfill any promise, pacing and direction have problems, but the acting really lets this movie down. The dialog can be unintelligible with accents from a later era it seems, and even Stan Walker's wonderful singing detracts from the movie's authenticity, with Walker's neo-soul style out of sync with the times. Temuera Morrison alone is left to carry the acting, but often has little to do except glare for the camera's gaze. The cinematography is a standout, though Pukekohe is idealized, like the times, as a perpetually sunny rural haven (it was either overcast or raining both times I visited!).

    Despite its shortcomings, Mt Zion holds interest for the outsider as a social document of Maori life and marae ritual, even though the movie seems to be made primarily for a Maori audience. There's enough charm to keep you engaged, and Bob Marley's digitized cameo is a curious highlight.

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