You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


A Maori man's long-repressed sexual desires threaten to tear apart his immediate family ties in "Kawa."

With: Calvin Tuteao, Nathalie Boltt, George Henare, Vicki Haughton, Dean O'Gorman, Pana Hema-Taylor, Miriama-Jane Devantier.

A Maori man’s long-repressed sexual desires threaten to tear apart his immediate family ties in “Kawa,” a handsome New Zealand telepic based on “Whale Rider” scribe Witi Ihimaera’s novel “Nights in the Garden of Spain” (its local broadcast title). This agonies-of-coming-out drama is well handled on all counts but may strike some international gay auds as a bit old-hat, as the scenario adds few if any new complications to the once-groundbreaking similar narratives of “That Certain Summer” or “Making Love” decades ago. Still, respectable item should score some offshore broadcast and niche home-format sales.

Kawariki (Calvin Tuteao) is a strapping fortysomething Aucklander who seems to have it all — a successful marriage, a prestigious job (he’s an exec at a company co-founded by his father) and two healthy children. But he also has a secret life that is starting to affect his home and work environs. Spouse Annabelle (a brittle Nathalie Boltt) assumes he has a mistress. Teenaged son Sebastian (Pana Hema-Taylor) somehow thinks Mom is at fault, while for the moment, young daughter Miranda (Miriama-Jane Devantier) remains oblivious to all the unspoken tensions.

Kawa is cheating, but not with another woman — instead, he’s fallen in love with stage actor Chris (Dean O’Gorman) after years of secretly visiting bathhouses for anonymous gay sex. He can’t bring himself to confess what he’s kept repressed most of his life, until a family visit to the seaside home of his tradition-minded parents (George Henare, Vicky Haughton) is interrupted by Chris, who is stricken by the fact that their relationship has apparently hit a dead end.

Forced to come out under duress, Kawa is rejected by all, though the film offers hope that with time, his loved ones might yet reconcile themselves to the man he’s really always been. Ihimaera actually delayed the novel’s original publication for a decade, fearing its highly autobiographical content would be too painful for his own real-life family.

Helmer Katie Wolfe and scribe Kate McDermott’s thoughtful work is well supported by cast, and packaging is attractive, from locations to soundtrack choices.


New Zealand

Production: A Cinco Cine Film Prods., Con Brio and NZ on Air production. (International sales: Corey Tong, San Francisco.) Produced by Christina Milligan, Nicole Hoey. Directed by Katie Wolfe. Screenplay, Kate McDermott, adapted from the novel "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" by Witi Ihimaera.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Fred Renata; editor, Lisa Hough; music, Joel Haines; production designer, Brett Schwieters; art director, Sam Evans; costume designer, Danielle Cormack; sound, Ben Vanderpoel; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Bruno Barrett-Garnier; sound designer, Bruce Langley; assistant director, Anna Gundesen; casting, Stuart Turner. Reviewed at Frameline (World Cinema), San Francisco, June 21, 2011. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Calvin Tuteao, Nathalie Boltt, George Henare, Vicki Haughton, Dean O'Gorman, Pana Hema-Taylor, Miriama-Jane Devantier.

More Film

  • VICE

    Adam McKay Explains the 'Vice' Musical Number He Left on the Cutting Room Floor

    Adam McKay’s “Vice” has clearly divided critics, with some calling it a bold and daring analysis of one of the most pivotal figures in American politics, and others mincing no words in labeling it, full stop, the worst film of the year. (Truly, in the year of a Dinesh D’Souza movie, people are grandstanding with [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead

    Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75

    Penny Marshall, who starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley” and then became a successful director, died on Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes, Variety has confirmed. She was 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 [...]

  • 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Box

    Peter Jackson's 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Collects $2.3 Million on Monday

    Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” earned $2.3 million at 1,122 theaters in North America on Monday. Warner Bros. released the movie five weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. The studio partnered with Fathom Events in the U.S. for a one-day event, marking the largest single [...]

  • Dua LipaVariety Hitmakers Brunch, Portraits, Los

    'Alita: Battle Angel' to Feature New Song by Dua Lipa

    Robert Rodriguez’s “Alita: Battle Angel” will feature a new song by Dua Lipa. “Swan Song,” co-written by Justin Tranter, Kennedi Lykken, Mattias Larsson, Robin Fredriksson and Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), in addition to Dua Lipa, will drop ahead of the film’s U.S. opening on Feb. 14. The Twentieth Century Fox action-adventure movie was produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau [...]

  • Les Arcs Festival Unveil Prizes For

    'System Crasher,' 'White on White' Win Work-in-Progress Awards at Les Arcs

    Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher” and Theo Court’s “White on White” won the top prizes at Les Arcs Film Festival’s Work-in-Progress session. Both titles were among the 18 films in post-production pitched during the 10th edition of the Work-in-Progress showcase which is spearheaded by Frederic Boyer, the artistic director of Les Arcs and Tribeca festivals. “System [...]

  • Actress Shirley MacLaine poses at the

    Shirley MacLaine Selected for AARP Career Achievement Award

    Shirley MacLaine has been selected as the recipient of the AARP’s 2018 Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award. MacLaine will be honored at the 18th annual Movies for Grownups Awards ceremony on Feb. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. More Reviews London Theater Review: 'The Cane' Film Review: 'The Wedding' MacLaine [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content