October 8, 2013

Valleys of dry bones

Illustrious Energy (Leon Narbey, 1987). Still a fascinating anomaly, 25 years later – 1980s New Zealand cinema that was serious, sensitive to history, entirely unmacho. Its subject is the long-repressed story of Chinese gold miners left behind in Otago after the goldrush: some are settling in, others are trying to find their way home. Life in these Otago valleys should be harsh and difficult but Narbey and co-writer Martin Edmond keep finding ways to make it look magical, even romantic. They treat these forgotten lives with real reverence. The thing has become nostalgic in other ways: these valleys of dry bones have been flooded since.