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Dark Horse

Chris Curtis plays the now homeless former chess grand master Genesis Potini who is coaching a Maori youth chess club.


A huge man covered in an old, colorful quilt stretches his arms out and mumbles to himself in a high, soft voice. He barely seems to notice that he’s soaking wet when he enters an antique store, stands in front of a chessboard, and starts playing against himself. The man is Genesis Potini and he is a former New Zealand chess grand master known as “Dark Horse.” Cliff Curtis, who can also be seen in the New Zealand indie RISEN playing Jesus, shows why he shouldn’t just be relegated to supporting roles in Hollywood. He plays an outsider with great sensitivity, is natural in his authority and otherness, and has a disarming physical presence. Potini begins to affiliating himself with a chess club with mostly young Maoris and experiences resistance that is more existential than similar sports films. He lands on the street, deals with parents who don’t want to be mentored by a homeless man, and his shy nephew has to undergo the brutal and humiliating initiation rituals of a rocker gang. James Napier Robertson’s debut shows Putini’s story as a composed kitchen sink drama and avoids the trappings of ethno kitsch and redemption stories. Even though the typical sports film stations appear – motivational speeches, first successes, hardships, the big competition – it is less about success and more about cultural identity, personal integrity, and recognizing the value of being different. A great, respectful film shot with lovely mild New Zealand lighting.

Hannes Stein

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: The Dark Horse
Neuseeland 2014, 124 min
Genre: Drama
Director: James Napier Robertson
Author: James Napier Robertson
DOP: Denson Baker
Montage: Peter Roberts
Music: Dana Lund
Distributor: Koch Media
Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance
FSK: 12
Release: 16.06.2016




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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