Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Movie Review: The Silent One

The Silent One 
George Henare, Pat Evison, Teraki Tokorangi, Turi Tama, Anzac Wallace, Rongo Tupatea Kahu, Telo Malase, Joe Pahali, Rangi Staski, Reg Ruka, Reg Ruka, Mana Kuroraki, Douglas Hosking, Mareta Tane, Mabel Wharekawa, Anthony Gilbert, Bernard Kearns, Teina Tetoa, Prince Tui Teka 
Director: Yvonne Mackay 
The Gibson Group, New Zealand, 1984. 
The Silent One title
The movie is based on novel by Joy Cowley.

On a South Pacific island a boat drifts ashore. On the boat is a baby boy. A local witch doctor Paui Te Po (George Henare) warns that the child is a sea demon. Despite the warnings the villagers adopt the boy. Jonasi (Telo Malase) is raised by energetic woman Luisa (Pat Evison). Jonasi grows up to be a good swimmer and fisherman but other kids steal his fish. Jonasi is a deaf-mute so he is called the Silent One. His friend is Aesake (Anthony Gilbert) whose father is chief Taruga (Rongo Tupatea Kahu). Taruga is also friend of ship captain Redbeard (Bernard Kearns). 
Islanders save the baby from the sea
George Henare
Witch doctor Paui Te Po
Jonasi and the other boys must attend a boar hunt as the transition to manhood. He is also skilled with spear which annoys warrior Bulai (Reg Ruka). The witch doctor Paui Te Po bans Jonasi from attending the hunt because he can not shout warnings to other hunters. Jonasi goes fishing and tries to hunt a very rare white turtle, but he ends up becoming friends with the turtle. 
Pat Evison
Jonasi is protected by his adoptive mother Luisa
Reg Ruka
Warrior Bulai
Bernard Kearns and Rongo Tupatea Kahu
Captain Redbeard and chief Taruga
When drought hits the island, Paui Te Po blames Jonasi and wants to deport him. Because chief Taruga opposes, Paui To Po decides to overthrow the chief with with warrior Tasiri (Anzac Wallace). Jonasi has to defend his turtle friend from getting killed by other islanders. As the villagers believe that the turtle is an evil spirit, Jonasi becomes more and more ostracized by the villagers. Only in the sea Jonasi feels he can be free. Although some of the islanders are learning about the modern way of life, some are still superstitious. It gets dangerous for the Silent One. 
Telo Malase
Jonasi and the White Turtle
Anzac Wallace
Warrior Tasiri
There is also a shark!
The movie depicts the tribal everyday life, hunting and rituals quite realistically. The movie is an exciting adventure with a magical twist in the end. Many of actors are probably real island people. Cinematography is beautiful with great underwater scenes shot by divers Ron and Valerie Taylor. The movie was filmed on Aitutaki Island. 
Redbeard's ship
The Silent one was the first New Zealand feature film from a woman director Yvonne Mackay. The film's assistant director was Lee Tamahori, who has later directed such films as Once Were Warriors and Die Another Day. The Silent One won a Lucas prize in International Festival of Films for Children and Young People 1984 and also two prizes in Paris Film Festival 1986 (Best Actor Tero Malase, and Special Jury Prize). Despite the awards it is a relatively unknown film. The only DVD releases I know are the New Zealand release and Scandinavian release. I first saw the movie in Turku, Finland at children's film club in late 1980s.

Rating: Very Good

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