Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
Watching the wary children in Daniel Joseph Borgman’s film as they size each other up, longing for alliance and dreading treachery, you might forget you are watching fiction. Eleven-year-old Adrian (Demos Murphy) has been landed on his grandmother (Catherine Wilkin), who already has her hands full with his manic-depressive uncle (Matthew Sutherland). A cipher of down-home puritanical severity, she offers only perfunctory care to the ‘hyper-sensitive’ child. A watchful teacher proves to be a passing thing. As this sketchy adult world revolves on its own inscrutable axis, Adrian struggles to find his way in the world of children.
His friendship with another boy comes and goes as the other kid falls in and out with a marauding pack of older boys. Preoccupied with a long-running news story about the abduction of three young siblings, he becomes convinced – from signals we can read the same way – that these are the same three kids who have just moved into a run-down house nearby. A tenuous friendship with the wary older girl (Angelina Cottrell) holds the promise of companionship.
Borgman was born and educated in Dunedin before he moved to Denmark, where he made a number of notable shorts, including the Cannes-selected Lars and Peter. He came home, with co-production support from Denmark, to shoot this first feature in Invercargill. Based on an Australian novel, the film marks a distinctive intersection of sensibilities. Rendered in the piercing performance-focused style of the Danish Dogme movement, its acute, unwavering identification with its fearful protagonist etches an indelible addition to the canon of Kiwi childhood tales.