Reviewed by Helene Wong (20 May 2008)
A SMALL DIGITAL GEM
If you're in Hokianga next weekend or in Wairoa mid-June, you'll have, rare chance to see Taking the Waewae Express (Maori-speak for "shanks pony"), a small digital gem that sparkles with a big emotional impact. Made and distributed on almost no budget by Wellingtonians Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader, it's been making its way quietly around the country since its premiere in Wellington last year. Too quietly, because it deserves much wider appreciation. Originating as a project for students at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, where Bosshard teaches screen acting, it shows bracingly what can be achieved using improvisation — a la Mike Leigh — to develop character and story. The process is simple, but the emotions generated are complex, and the performances not only skillfully communicate that complexity, but do it with restraint and truth as well as a disarming sweetness. It's a story that deals with the worst and the best of that passage from youthful innocence to adulthood, delivering it with compassion and humour in a uniquely New Zealand way. The youthful cast impress with their naturalness. Their cultural mix feels unforced, too — in fact, it's one of the film's best features. Rangimoana Taylor and Chong Sin Lim bring quiet dignity and gentle wisdom to the adults, and Wellington, night and day, looks great. A second film is in the works, but if you can catch this one, don't hesitate.
TAKING THE WAEWAE EXPRESS, directed by Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader;
HOKIANGA FILM FESTIVAL, May 29-June 1;
WAIROA MAORI FILM FESTIVAL, June 18-21.
Reviewed by Peter Calder (6 December 2008)
TAKING THE WAEWAE EXPRESS
Verdict: Tiny semi-improvised drama packs a powerful punch (FOUR STARS)
This no-budget drama by two Wellington filmmakers associated with the Community Media Trust (the group behind Alister Barry’s excellent political documentaries) packs an authentic emotional punch.
Using the ensemble improvisational processes made famous by English director Mike Leigh, it takes us into the lives of several young Wellington men who are bound by a tragic car accident for which all feel to some extent responsible.These boys, despite their shared passion for fast cars and soft drugs, are not bad but they’re on the verge of a manhood each finds scary. The smart script which eschews both cheap dramatics and easy emotional payoffs gives each of the novice actors plenty to play with. Veteran Taylor, as a father caught between grief and hope, is the cast’s anchor, but Heron, as a cheerful grease-monkey and Whatarau as the young man with most on his mind, are screen naturals.
It has the whiff of a public-service safe-driving message at times but a season in the Academy’s small cinema is the least this film deserves. Check it out and see what can-do Kiwis can come up with. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Reviewed by Mervyn Dykes (25 September 2008)
A MEMORABLE TRIP - TAKING THE WAEWAE EXPRESS
Call this "a great little film" and you're at risk of being called a condescending snob. Yes, it had a budgetof only $15,000 (that's right there are no zeroes missing) and the hard core of the cast were studentsfrom the Wellington Performing Arts Centre engaging in a class exercise with directors Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader, but Waewae Express is far better than many multi-million dollar junk films that masquerade as entertainment.
It's a wonderful Kiwi film that makes a deceptively simple first impression, but deals with universal truths that could win over audiences anywhere. The big tragedy is that by the time this review is published Palmerton North theatregoers will have only one more chance to see it (Sunday September 28, at 5pm).
This film is great, not only for the story it tells, but as a testament to the ability of high-definition digital equipment to slash the cost of filmmaking. It is proof of the often-voiced hope that technology will wrest filmmaking from the Hollywood formula mills and put the art back into the hands of inspired independent filmmakers. Having cinematography in the hands of Deane Cronin is another plus.
The story behind Waewae Express is simple - a group of young men in love with fast cars and the odd puff of forbidden substances is shattered by an accident in which one is killed. How they deal with it makes compelling, if sometimes slow-moving cinema. Humour, love, hate, forgiveness and simple human kindness all have a place in the tale. Performances by the young cast range down from terrific to competent, but the people they portray are always believable.
And what is the Waewae Express? It's the Maori equivalent of Shanks Pony. Walking is what you have to do when your car has been confiscated by the law.
Director Andrea Bosshard who was present at the screening at Cinema Gold on Sunday says the script was produced using the improv techniques of British director Mike Leigh. The actors worked with each other developing dialogue in the various scenarios and the directors used it to produce the script. This is a risky process. The result can either be a mish-mash, or a delight. In the case of Waewae Express, it is the latter.
Heading the cast is veteran actor Rangimoana Taylor (as the father of the dead boy) and working with him are Matariki Whatarau, Jacob Renwick-Faauga, Evan Hussey, Isaac Heron, Tamati Pere, Jess Aalton, Susanne Svanberg and Chong Sin Lim. Remember those names. Some of them will be back in other cast lists. You will want to see them.