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Guy Pearce stars in The Convert (IMDB)

The Convert tells the history of a lay preacher in a British settlement in New Zealand who becomes involved in a war between two Māori tribes in the 1830s. Source: Australian Catholics.

Preacher Thomas Munro (Pearce) arrives at Epworth, a small settlement in New Zealand. Colonial oppression is evident, and battles break out between warring Māori tribes.

Munro has a violent past and his faith as a preacher is put to the test as he becomes caught in the crossfire between two tribes. 

He saves the life of a Māori woman, Rangimai (Ngatai-Melbourne), and they share a desire to seek peace in the region. Tensions escalate as they battle with opposing cultural forces.

Having taken part in the past slaughter of innocent tribe members, Munro reasons with both sides to try to find peace. He experiences at first hand the contempt that British colonists felt toward the native people, and Rangimai rages at the violence she sees her people facing: she sees members of her tribe as refugees in their own country, and colonial history for her is written in murder and avarice. 

The chiefs of the warring tribes buy muskets from white traders, weapons are sold to the highest bidder, conflicts abound, and tribal chiefs are at war with each other. The introduction of firearms has made Māori warfare deadly.

Visually, the film is impressive as the richness of Māori culture is put on display, and the film pays just and fitting respect for its rituals and practices.

The war scenes are violent, but genuine peace emerges. Stunning photography cements the impact of the culture that the film brilliantly captures. 

Director Lee Tamahori astutely mixes emotional undercurrents that strongly reinforce the conflicts and political statements that occur throughout the film. This film is exceptional cinema.

Review by Peter W Sheehan, Jesuit Media.

The Convert: Starring Guy Pearce, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Antonio Te Maioha, Jacqueline McKenzie, and Lawrence Makoare. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Rating MA15+. Restricted. (Strong Violence). 119 min.


The Convert (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics