'Thought I was like you but I'm not...

by tosca on Tuesday, March 30, 2010

...I don't have any potential.'
- Boy (Alamein) from the film Boy (written/directed/featuring the very talented Taika Waititi).

The clip, above, is from Taika Waititi's very moving film 'Boy.' If you haven't yet seen it then move your arse, sunshine! What're you waiting for - Armageddon?! The first I heard about Boy was when @natz2d2 came in to work and said some American critic didn't think it was very Maori. How Maori is Maori, I'd like to know? It's a question Maori themselves try to define everyday. Good luck to the critic if he finds the answer, geez. I was kinda pissed about the comment but hell, it's hard to have an opinion about something I know nothing about so I said very little. Now I do have something to say. Monsieur Le Critique, what the hell do you know about being Maori? 'Boy' is a film that, as Maori, I identified with more than freakin' 'Once were warriors' that's for damn sure.

It's been a few months since I saw any film and, worse still, I hadn't even heard of Boy. Don't shoot me. Admittedly if I'd been following someone who was following Taika's tweetstream I'm sure I would've known. The film is set on the East Coast in Te Whanau-a-Apanui countryside and features Alamein, an 11 year old whose nickname is 'Boy' (if you only knew how many Maori kids I've known who were fondly called 'Boy' or 'Girl' or 'Tama' or 'Hine'!). Boy lives with his gran and brother - 6 year old Rocky who believes he has 'special powers' - and 4 cousins (3 of whom are under 4 by the looks of it). Boy has built up a whole fantasy life around his father that he happily shares with his friends and brother. The truth is not that shit hot. His life consists of school, exploring the area and helping gran take care of the children. When gran is unexpectedly called away to a tangi (funeral) in Wellington (and toddles off in a beat up old Humberhawk that the kids have to push down the driveway - geez did that bring back some memories), Boy must take care of the whanau (family). And then Boy's dad (who wants to call himself Shogun, the idiot) arrives, complete with 2 stupid friends (omg spot the track pants and swanndri). Somehow, Boy has to reconcile the pretend version of his dad with the one who turns up on the doorstep (spot the Valiant - my dad had a bright orange Regal Valiant just like it *groans*).

I loved this film! I laughed until I was almost sick and winced and cringed and groaned in sympathy and, once or twice, even shed a tear or two. Sometimes your pretend dad is better than the real thing. It's a crappy lesson to learn. Sometimes, though, good stuff comes out of that. I spent the whole movie feeling so nostalgic. It reminded me of both the good and the bad parts of growing up Maori in the 80s. My childhood friends of the time would have recognised so much of their own lives, things that we probably thought were particular to Maori: the parties in the shed; sitting in the back of the car parked outside the pub while one (or both) of the parents were inside tying one on (not my dad though, my mum would've hung him if he'd tried that with us); leaving the kids unsupervised for hours at a time (once again, not my mum, she would have castrated him - am beginning to recognise that perhaps mum wore the pants); the very bad 80s haircuts; the terrible shorts and adidas shoes; the bop - seriously, my young uncles used to carry a ghetto blaster everywhere they went AND they had a square piece of lino they'd carry, too, because hey, the urge to drop and bop could strike anytime, anywhere LOL); freedom and safety to run wild and explore; making yourself look like an idiot in front of your crush; trying to grow up before you're ready; the slang of the time; the way Maori would interact with each other; rural life; dad being in jail (once again, not mine, mum would've left him for dust if that had been the case). Hell, hearing the 'Goodnight Kiwi' song again almost scared the crap out of mef - I used to find that song so scary. Probably because of the dratted hissing noise the tv made when it would go off air. And the soundtrack! Poi e, Karu, Thriller, Hine e hine etc. *Le sigh* Good (and bad) times. Definitely. Jotting all of this down I see that perhaps it wasn't strictly a Maori experience so much as it was just life. Fullstop.

Go watch it - you won't regret it. Honest. But don't tell me it's not Maori.

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