A raw, brutal and compelling action-epic set in pre-colonial New Zealand, THE DEAD LANDS follows the young son of a murdered tribal chieftain as he seeks vengeance on his family’s killers by learning the ancient Maori martial arts from a legendary warrior.
Acclaimed director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley, No.2) presents a highly accomplished enactment of tribal warfare and honour, infused with authentic and original insights into Maori culture, and energized by dramatic martial arts sequences using Mau Rakau, the native Maori combat art never before depicted on film.
In the time of Te Ao Maori (The Maori World before Western colonization), sixteen year old Hongi (James Rolleston, star of the international hit Boy), son of the local chieftain, witnesses the slaughter of almost his entire people in an act of treachery by warriors from a neighbouring tribe with an ancient rivalry. As the sole male to survive, his honour, and that of the souls of his loved ones, depends upon him wreaking vengeance. Vastly outnumbered by the attackers, lead by self-styled ‘glorious warrior’ Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka), as he trails them back to their lands, Hongi’s only hope is to enter the forbidden ‘Dead lands’ – an area where an entire tribe vanished not long ago.
Driven by visions from the spirit world he must seek there the help of the terrifying and mysterious ‘Warrior’ (Lawrence Makoare, The Hobbit, Marco Polo), a bloodthirsty fighter said to haunt the area. Navigating the connections between violence and honour, leadership and revenge, Hongi must convince the ‘Warrior’ that redemption for them both lies in joining together to avenge this new instance of a tribe’s violent extinction.
THE DEAD LANDS presents a culture and world never depicted authentically on screen before. Selected as New Zealand’s 2014 submission for the Academy Awards, it holds the distinction of being the first film shot entirely in Maori language and the first in-depth depiction of Mau Rakau combat shown on film. Toa Fraser and cinematographer perfectly channel the story’s potent mix of spirituality and brutality into the lush, atmospheric New Zealand landscape.
Invoking the spirit and pulse-pounding pace of APOCALYPTO, and pairing it with athletic martial arts setpieces certain to thrill fans of THE RAID, Toa Fraser resurrects the ancient, proud Maori culture in outstandingly fearless fashion.
Premiering to great acclaim at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, with its UK premiere at 2014 London Film Festival, THE DEAD LANDS opens theatrically & on VOD May 29th and is released on DVD June 1st.