Kawa (2010)

Director: Katie Wolfe
Starring: Calvin Tuteao, Dean O’Gorman, Pana Hema-Taylor, Nathalie Boltt, George Henare, Vicky Haughton . New Zealand . 1h 16m

Based on : the novel Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera.

Even though 80% of what I watch is considered “World Cinema” there are still areas which I find it hard to break into, and for some strange reason New Zealand is one of them, mostly because the only film anyone ever talks about is Once Were Warriors! Even I’ve been guilty of it, I’ve searched for the next fix, and I thought I had found it with The Last Saint, while a gritty drama it just didn’t pack the power of Once were Warriors, but I didn’t give up, New Zealand Cinema has a lot to offer and while this isn’t the very best, I found it to be a charming alternative albeit a little bit basic.

Surprisingly when they aren’t making movies about gang life there’s a pretty healthy cult of day time tv movie-esque drama’s often featuring gay men going on and this is one of them.

Seeing Calvin Tuteao without his dread and tribal tattoos beating the hell out of Julian Arahanga, he looks like a much smaller less aggressive person. In this role he’s Kawariki, a hard working and  loving father and husband who has a secret double life where he’s deeply in love with his actor boyfriend Chris (O’Gorman) and spends his nights visiting bath houses for a bit of anonymous hooking up, the pressure of living a double life has it’s pressures, and once his secret gets out, he has a messy life to deal with, his wife Annabell (Boltt) is obviously deeply upset about the betrayal, but so are his children and parents (his father being George Henare, who played Bennett in Once were Warriors), the entire world seems to be turning against him, even his boyfriend has moved on for someone else. Kawa’s attempts to right the situation is an uphill struggle but a desperate crisis could set to change everyone lives forever.

Generally it’s a bit of a midday tv melodrama, some things happened but it’s nothing major, just a modern coming out story for the family to enjoy (!?)

It’s pretty average in many aspects, the acting, filming, score etc, there’s nothing to really rave about.  But it is one of those taboo situations which does need to be addressed and tackled from time to time but sadly the film doesn’t really give any guidance other than, try and love each other no matter what, well ok.

It could have been more hard hitting, but reading throughout the novel it’s more of a Mills and Boon rather than a Larry Clark story. While I take the movie totally seriously at times I can’t help thinking of the gay couple, pairing up in their other roles, Fili the boystrious dwarf from the Hobbit getting together with Taka from Once were warriors!? What could be more romantic?

Rating: 6/10

R: When Love comes along (1998), Once were warriors (1994),The Last Saint (2014)
5s: Calvin Tuteao



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