Toa Fraser Explores Maori Martial Arts In THE DEAD LANDS

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Best known for arthouse fare such as Dean Spanley, New Zealand director Toa Fraser will be taking a hard left turn into entirely different territory with his freshly announced new film The Dead Lands. And whatever lessons he learned about shooting choreography with his acclaimed ballet film Giselle - a selection of the Toronto International Film Festival - will be put to use with choreography of an entirely different sort.

After his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery, Hongi - a Maori chieftan's teenage son - must avenge his father's murder in order to bring peace and honor to the souls of his loved ones. Vastly outnumbered by the band of villains, Hongi's only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden Dead Lands and forge an uneasy alliance with the mysterious "Warrior," a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years.
Yes, The Dead Lands is a period set action epic based entirely in the traditional Maori fighting arts. James Rolleston (Boy), Lawrence Makoare, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Xavier Horan, George Henare and Rena Owen star with principal photography beginning on Monday. Sales and production company XYZ Films (where, yes, I'm a partner, full disclosure, etc etc) will handle all international business on the film with XYZ's Australian exec Simon de Bruyn (hey! that's a familiar name, too!) telling Screen, "[The Dead Lands] is an important film. These guys are bringing Maori history and culture to life in an authentic, unsparing, and dramatically spectacular way."

That's the first piece of concept art above and keep an eye out for stills and other materials as production moves along.
Around the Internet:
  • Kingi Gilbert

    I really want to root for this film... something making me feel sceptical about it though (am more than willing to change my view as details gets released). It is regarding the PR, probably would have helped to have one of the following established actors/theatrical directors and Maori martial arts experts Temuera Morrison, Wetini Mitai Ngatai or Tukiterngi Curtis as fight choreographers or attached to the film. The current named cast n crew don't have the kind of martial arts experience or have not been widely acknowledged as 'masters', but hey, keen to see what the production team can do. Awesome stuff XYZ really stoked to see you guys taking a punt on Maori films, I feel really privelaged as a Maori to see XYZ supporting this production, hope its a successful project! Really cool idea and wish it very much all the best!

  • Tipene Kerei

    Hey Kingi, Jamus Webster is on board with the Mau Rakau as are a couple of younger experts in the martial art.

  • You've got nothing to worry about there, Kingi. The fight team is VERY experienced and the prep was very lengthy and intense. I've seen some rehearsal video and it looks pretty amazing.

  • Kingi Gilbert

    I did some of my own research. The Maori martial arts guys will no doubt do their best for the skill level they have. Good luck to you all!

  • would be neat to see if they could get UFC fighters Mark Hunt or James TeHuuna who are of Maori decent to cameo in some fight scenes...

  • Simon de Bruyn

    Some training was done with Mark Hunt before the film started shooting. https://twitter.com/ToaFraser/...

  • awesome! so does that mean he'll be in the final cut?

  • Simon de Bruyn

    I did not mean to be misleading; I should have phrased it as "they trained alongside Mark Hunt" as in he supports the project and he's clearly helped in some way with fight prep and pre-shoot fitness training.

  • There's a lot of shooting yet to be done before there's any conversation about cut.

  • Mike

    Always neat to see martial arts films from outside the usual areas.

  • NICE ONE fellas, i'm very eager to see this when it comes out, "Mau Rakau" is a VERY brutal fighting art, especially with the weapons (like clubs edged in shark teeth!!!!) - many of the stick fighting techniques are very similar to Eskrima & Krabi Kabrong as well. good to see this martial art get more screen time, the only previous attempts i can recall are 'Whale Rider' and another one i can't remember the name of...

  • Hanajun Chung

    At the end of this film called 'Broken English,' the protagonist rescues the damsel by using that club (edged in shark teeth) with some sweet moves. I think I also saw it in this film called 'Utu,' but that one took place in a war atmosphere so mostly guns and rifles. But yeah, quite excited to see the maori culture again onscreen. I'm expecting to see an epic haka sequence somewhere in this new film.

  • THAT was the one i couldn't remember, Broken English, thank you...

  • I think I can safely say that you'll be seeing some weapons.

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