Telepic-like indie drama “Matariki” is an ungainly multistrander set in the Otara suburb of South Auckland, an economically disadvantaged urban area associated with crime and violence, and home to a large Maori and Polynesian population. Stylistically all over the map, pic has so many unmerited camera and editing tricks, it’s as if debuting feature director Michael Bennett fears he will never get another chance. With Maori directors and stories a relatively rare commodity, the film might find additional fest berths offshore but will fit most comfortably into ancillary.
During the Maori New Year, a surfeit of cliched storylines connect uneasily with that of Tama (Mark Ruka), a rugby star fatally beaten when he intervenes to save a neighborhood druggie (Edwin Wright). Tama’s police-sergeant wife (Sara Wiseman) clashes with his extended family, while Tama’s brother, Rick (Jarod Rawiri), tries to come to terms with his own sexuality. Rick’s lover (co-writer Iaheto Ah Hi, giving the most sympathetic performance) crosses paths with two petty criminals (Alix Bushnell, Michael Whalley), and troubled teens (Jason Wu, Susana Tang) joyride in Tama’s car. Pic is overreliant on a pounding score; other tech credits are serviceable.