★★★★ The Irish Times
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Shot entirely in the Maori language, The Dead Lands focuses on the bitter conflict between two tribes in pre-colonial New Zealand. When a group led by Wirepa (Te Kohe Tūhaka) comes to honour the burial grounds of their ancestors, chieftain’s son Hongi (James Rolleston) discreetly follows him, and bears witness to an act of sacrilege.
Discovering the boy spying, the bloodthirsty Wirepa takes advantage of the situation to reopen hostilities, slaughtering the men of Hongi’s tribe. Seeking to avenge their deaths, Hongi follows Wirepa’s party into an area of land forbidden by tradition and believed to be haunted by a vicious monster. Instead, he finds there a man, the Warrior (Lawrence Makore), who reluctantly agrees to help him in order to restore his own honour.
Lyrical and brutal, the film offers a rare and respectful depiction of Maori myth and culture. (Notes by Kevin Coyne.)
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