the legend of baron to'a
DIRECTOR: Kiel McNaughton (debut)
STARRING: Uli Latukefu, nathaniel lees, john tui, and Jay Laga'aia
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
A Tongan entrepreneur returns to his old neighbourhood and inadvertently causes the theft of his late father’s valued pro wrestling title belt.
Baron To'a cast a big shadow, his passing left a void in both his family and his community that still hasn't quite been filled. His son, Fritz has grown up to be a smart, put together guy, one driven by pragmatism and the goal of success. He spouts off quotes from management theory, psychology and probably at some point from The Art of War. He also writes his notes and strategies in felt-tip on glass windows which makes him look pretty smart indeed.
So when Fritz returns to the neighborhood that he grew up in, with a no-nonsense, straight to business attitude, he makes a poor impression on the neighbours. His aim of convincing his Uncle to sell the family home, the home of the Baron To’a and his title belt, to provide capital for Fritz’s business venture, is quickly frustrated.
Following an altercation regarding a lawnmower with a young recruit to the neighborhood gang, Fritz catches the attention of the boss. Soon after, The Baron’s title belt has found its way into the gang's headquarters, taking pride of place. Fritz takes it upon himself to take back the belt, and to teach them all a lesson.
The Legend of Baron To’a is a smart, funny and endearing film that will surely make its way into any end of year list considering the best New Zealand film of the year.
Excellent acting from new and familiar faces alike is a key strength of the film, and the talents of Director Kiel McNaughton (his feature debut) and writer John Argall elevate what could have been, in lesser hands, a familiar and standard story into something both entirely compelling and heart-warming.
The Legend of Baron To’a is a real must see and will one day be considered one of New Zealand's greatest films.