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the convert


starring: guy pearce, tioreore ngatai melbourne, lawrence makoare, and te kohe tuhaka

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

A lay preacher who arrives at a British settlement in 1830s. His violent past is soon drawn into question and his faith put to the test, as he finds himself caught in the middle of a bloody war between Maori tribes.

The Convert is a powerful piece of cinema, directed and co-written by Lee Tamahori, veteran of the New Zealand film industry. Tamahori’s expertise and cinematographer Gin Loane’s stunning work elevate The Convert to the level of international competition. Though it is the central performances of Guy Pearce and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne that give the film its power, its resonance.


Thomas Munroe (Guy Pearce) is a British preacher sent to pastor a small English settlement in 19th century Māori dominated New Zealand. He encounters warring tribes, unethical settlers and an entirely new frame of reference for faith and existence that deeply challenges him, especially when Rangimai (Ngatai-Melbourne) comes into his protection following the murder of her husband. Rangimai’s grief and their language barrier separate her and Munroe, though traumatic experiences of his own give him enough language to help develop a connection, and start to pave the way for his deeper understanding of the land he has ventured to.


The Convert is stunning to look at, cinematographer Gin Loane is a master of her craft. This work should surely put her on Hollywood’s radar. Though as striking as the film is to look at, it is also powerful in its themes which feel timely in their exploration here.


Filmmakers nowadays are possibly more inclined to examine ideas of cultural and personal identity, especially in relation to Colonialism, as audiences become more receptive to them (e.g. Dune Parts 1 and 2). This will hopefully help allow for the success of The Convert as a New Zealand example of this, as the film entirely deserves it. 


The Convert is a striking film from director Lee Tamahori which features some impressive and compelling work from leads Guy Pearce and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne. Though the MVP here is cinematographer Gin Loane, whose stunning work makes The Convert so striking to watch.


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