Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Director: Kiel McNaughton
Nation: Tonga, Māori
Opening the festival on March 18 is The Legend of Baron To’a, a Kiwi-sized blockbuster, with a lot of heart and all of the hallmarks of New Zealand storytelling and talent. Fritz, a displaced Tongan man, has returned to the cul-de-sac of his youth to sell the family home. When his late father’s priceless championship belt is stolen by a ruthless gang, Fritz must reconnect with his father’s legacy to defeat the barbaric gang kingpin and get the title back.
It is the directorial debut of Kiel McNaughton and is produced by Kerry Warkia (Producers of previous festival hits Vai and Waru). McNaughton’s vision was to create a film that could work in a single location and still be an action-packed drama.
“I set a challenge to our Heads of Departments (HOD’s) on the first day of pre-production for us to make a film that was as close to a Hollywood blockbuster as possible – without the gunfights, explosions and car chases. All of the HOD’s really ran with that concept, and everyone became focused on how we could make this film feel as big as possible, but still recognisably Kiwi.”