The Pā Boys is a laid-back, very Maori Kiwi musical road-trip film. It follows Wellington-based three-piece reggae band The Pā Boys as they pub-tour their way “down” the East Coast, through Northland and “down” to Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) – the “leaping-off place of spirits”. Death is a reoccurring theme in the film so it’s relevant that for some Māori the Cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
It’s a debut feature for Director/Screenplay writer Himiona Grace, and is described as being a film that explores themes of identity (and whakapapa), Maori-spirituality, mythology, life, death, family secrets, friendship and the importance of discovering ones roots. It’s a story of self-discovery, one that is significantly amplified by the profound and affecting land and seascapes of this country. Director of photography Rewa Harre's work is simply stunning, and along with the music was a real highlight for me.
So how well did the film do as a coherent whole? How well did the story-arc work?
For me, the film attempted too much. There were too many strands, all of them fascinating, but all underdone and for me it felt like I was skating across the surface of story, one that I think would have benefited from narrowing down of its themes and putting more flesh on the bones of the two central characters, Danny and Tau. I needed to understand more of their back-stories in order to better feel and understand what was happening to them, and why it was happening.
For me the film needed more story, and a more deeply realised humanity within which, and out of which to explore some of the important themes and questions that the film poses. I wanted to be able to feel my way into the humanity, questions and struggles of the two lead characters.
I was hoping that that experience of watching this film would help me to articulate more clearly my own questions about my sense of self, my identity, and my formation. I was hoping for a more visceral experience, one that really engaged me at the level of heart and emotion.
That it didn’t was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m glad I watched The Pā Boys. It was a competent, well-made film, an uplifting celebration of this land and what I most value in Māori culture.
You’ll find a video interview with Director here.