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STRENGTH OF WATER, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Ten-year-old twins Kimi (Hato Paparoa) and Melody (Melanie Mayall-Nahi) live happily in an isolated Maori community and help their parents Gibby (Jim Moriarty) and Joy (Nancy Brunning) on their chicken farm. Not long after the newcomer Tai (Isaac Barber) arrives in town, there is an accident which separates the twins. Everyone responds differently. Tai is blamed and treated like an outcast while Kimi starts to behave destructively as he realizes he is the only one who sees Melody. Meanwhile Kimi's brother Gene (Shayne Biddle) seeks revenge and lonely teenage girl Tirea (Pare Paseka) finds solace in a relationship with the outcast Tai.

Review by Louise Keller:
With its unique Maori backdrop, this moody drama about life, death and coming to terms with both is punctuated by a well devised fantasy element. An affecting feature debut for writer Briar Grace-Smith and director Armagan Ballantyne, there's an appealing simplicity about the story and dialogue as it offers a peek into a specific culture and its spiritual traditions. With its striking remote landscapes, there are some parallels with Whale Rider, another New Zealand-German co-production, although the storyline is quite different. I enjoyed being a part of the community for the film's 83 minutes, although I was a little frustrated by the sound mix, which made parts of the dialogue difficult to understand.

We see the harshness of how the huge waves crash upon the rocks from the top of the cliff, one of the favourite haunts of ten-year old twins Kimi (Hato Paparoa) and Melody (Melanie Mayall-Nahi). That's where we first meet them, with their pet chicken. Life is simple on the chicken farm. Theirs is a large family and everyone chips in to help. Every day, the twins deliver the eggs to the neighbouring houses and when the man they call the Chicken Saver comes to take some of the chickens away, they believe he is taking them 'to a Chicken Retirement Farm'. What will the chickens do at the farm? Go to Chicken School of course ('What's the point of having wings if you don't know how to use them'), Melody tells her twin. Catalyst to the story is Isaac Barber's Tai, a stranger who comes to the settlement to escape from his 'allergy to cops'. He confesses this to the asthmatic Melody, when she tells him of her allergy to blue lollies.

Briar Grace-Smith's script concentrates on the close, complex relationship and interaction between the twins, as everything changes due to an unforseen event. The relationship between Tai and Pare Paseka's Tirea, the local girl who doesn't want to fit in and dreams of another life is also canvassed. The performances of the two youngsters are especially impressive and Ballantyne directs the entire cast with great sensitivity. Animals play an important role and add ballast to the way serious themes are simplified.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

STRENGTH OF WATER, THE (M)
(New Zealand, Germany, 2009)

CAST: Hato Paparoa, Melanie Mayall-Nahi, Jim Moriarty, Nancy Brunning, Isaac Barber, Pare Paseka, Shayne Biddle

PRODUCER: Fiona Copland

DIRECTOR: Armagan Ballantyne

SCRIPT: Briar Grace-Smith

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bogumil Godfrejow

EDITOR: Not credited

MUSIC: Peter Golub, Warren Maxwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Kofoed

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 3, 2009







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