Glowing reviews as Dark Horse hits US

Curtis performance inspires more Oscar rumours

Curtis performance inspires more Oscar rumours

Natalie Potini, the wife of the late Genesis Potini, and Cliff Curtis, who played Genesis in The Dark Horse.

File picture

JUST two days after its release in Los Angeles and New York it has been confirmed that a film about a Gisborne man will roll out into other United States cities, and rumours have resurfaced about a possible Oscar for its star.

Shot in Gisborne and Auckland in the winter of 2013, The Dark Horse — about speed chess champ and mental health advocate the late Genesis Potini — was released in New Zealand a year later.

However, despite scooping awards in at home and at film festivals around the world, its US release was postponed from late last year until this week in Los Angeles and New York. It appears avoiding the pre-Christmas rush has paid off.

Glowing US reviews

In the United States to promote the film, star Cliff Curtis has received saturation coverage in the media. Glowing reviews have reached millions of readers of outlets from the Wall Street Journal to mega-movie sites Fandango and Deadline Hollywood.

Adding the icing to the cake, reviewer Stephen Holden named it the New York Times Critics’ Pick — a vital endorsement in the huge US film market, especially given the powerful influence of the New York Film Critics Circle.

Don't underestimate Kiwi films: James Cameron

As the cherry on top, the film was launched in Los Angeles by a high-profile trio of Curtis, writer/director James Napier Robertson and New Zealand-based Hollywood director James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic, Avatar). Introducing the film on Thursday, Cameron said US audiences should not underestimate Kiwi films.

“The thing about New Zealand filmmakers is they never have much money and it’s a small country with only four million people, yet they consistently punch far above their weight class,” he told a packed crowd at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.

“This film is very New Zealand, but it’s also very universal. It’s about the pain of being a man and the pain of becoming a man. It’s an amazing piece of work by Cliff Curtis.”

Introducing the film with Cameron, Robertson paid tribute to Potini, who passed away while Robertson was writing the script, and credited absent producer Tom Hern’s “incredible work ethic, talent and deep humanity” for making the movie possible.

“The film’s been all around the world and this is its last stop, so it’s exciting that it’s being embraced.”

Oscar talk

Though Dark Horse is now a couple of years old, its opening in Los Angeles means it now qualifies for the 2017 Academy Awards for which a film must screen for at least seven days in Los Angeles County.

That has reignited chat about Curtis, in particular, being a contender for his “compelling and authentic” (Associated Press) portrayal of Potini.

Curtis’ castmate Lorenzo James Henrie, from hit television series Fear The Walking Dead, is right behind him, saying he is praying for an Oscar for the Kiwi and is “proud to call myself his son . . . on TV”.

Before his death in 2011, Genesis Potini was an enthusiastic supporter of the film project and its predecessor, 2003 documentary Dark Horse.

His unveiling at Taruheru Cemetery in January revealed a headstone marked with the Eastern Knights chess club logo and the inscription “The Dark Horse lives on . . .”

JUST two days after its release in Los Angeles and New York it has been confirmed that a film about a Gisborne man will roll out into other United States cities, and rumours have resurfaced about a possible Oscar for its star.

Shot in Gisborne and Auckland in the winter of 2013, The Dark Horse — about speed chess champ and mental health advocate the late Genesis Potini — was released in New Zealand a year later.

However, despite scooping awards in at home and at film festivals around the world, its US release was postponed from late last year until this week in Los Angeles and New York. It appears avoiding the pre-Christmas rush has paid off.

Glowing US reviews

In the United States to promote the film, star Cliff Curtis has received saturation coverage in the media. Glowing reviews have reached millions of readers of outlets from the Wall Street Journal to mega-movie sites Fandango and Deadline Hollywood.

Adding the icing to the cake, reviewer Stephen Holden named it the New York Times Critics’ Pick — a vital endorsement in the huge US film market, especially given the powerful influence of the New York Film Critics Circle.

Don't underestimate Kiwi films: James Cameron

As the cherry on top, the film was launched in Los Angeles by a high-profile trio of Curtis, writer/director James Napier Robertson and New Zealand-based Hollywood director James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic, Avatar). Introducing the film on Thursday, Cameron said US audiences should not underestimate Kiwi films.

“The thing about New Zealand filmmakers is they never have much money and it’s a small country with only four million people, yet they consistently punch far above their weight class,” he told a packed crowd at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.

“This film is very New Zealand, but it’s also very universal. It’s about the pain of being a man and the pain of becoming a man. It’s an amazing piece of work by Cliff Curtis.”

Introducing the film with Cameron, Robertson paid tribute to Potini, who passed away while Robertson was writing the script, and credited absent producer Tom Hern’s “incredible work ethic, talent and deep humanity” for making the movie possible.

“The film’s been all around the world and this is its last stop, so it’s exciting that it’s being embraced.”

Oscar talk

Though Dark Horse is now a couple of years old, its opening in Los Angeles means it now qualifies for the 2017 Academy Awards for which a film must screen for at least seven days in Los Angeles County.

That has reignited chat about Curtis, in particular, being a contender for his “compelling and authentic” (Associated Press) portrayal of Potini.

Curtis’ castmate Lorenzo James Henrie, from hit television series Fear The Walking Dead, is right behind him, saying he is praying for an Oscar for the Kiwi and is “proud to call myself his son . . . on TV”.

Before his death in 2011, Genesis Potini was an enthusiastic supporter of the film project and its predecessor, 2003 documentary Dark Horse.

His unveiling at Taruheru Cemetery in January revealed a headstone marked with the Eastern Knights chess club logo and the inscription “The Dark Horse lives on . . .”

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