December 16, 2013

Easter, 1979

Mt Zion (Tearepa Kahi, 2013). There is a sequence near the end of Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Marley that shows how the idea and image of Bob Marley has travelled the world – especially the developing world – as a redemptive figure, equal parts Che Guevara and Nelson Mandela, only with music (and marijuana). That was the story in New Zealand, where there has also been the happy coincidence that Waitangi Day is Marley’s birthday. Tearepa Kahi’s amiable, mostly routine first film, Mt Zion, touches on some of this but never deeply – Kahi appears to have worked backwards after locating footage of Marley receiving a marae welcome in Auckland in 1979, writing an against-the-odds showbiz story that builds towards that indelible moment. Australian Idol winner Stan Walker is Pukekohe potato picker Turei who dreams of winning his band a spot opening for Marley at Western Springs but movie obstacles are in his way. No surprise that Walker is a better singer than actor but Temuera Morrison has an appealingly weary quality as Turei’s father and original Golden Harvest guitar hero Kevin Kaukau is here as his sub-Hendrix self. While never quite nostalgic, Mt Zion has a fairly convincing sense of time and place but for one thing: it’s not the late 70s if no one but the bad guy smokes.