Film: The Convert



The Convert is a sweeping historical drama from director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) set in 1830s New Zealand, when the British are arriving as settlers and Maori tribes are at war with each other.

Lay preacher Thomas Munro (a terrific Guy Pearce) arrives by schooner, invited by the small settler community of Epworth to take charge of their congregation.

He lands in the middle of a violent skirmish between two Maori tribes, led by Maianui (Antonio Te Maioha) and Akatarewa (Lawrence Makoare).

Maianui’s daughter Rangimai (a compelling Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne) sees her husband slaughtered and is facing death herself.

She is saved when the shocked Munro trades his prized horse for her life.



He finds that the white settlers are openly racist, hostile to the grieving Rangimai and ruthless in their dealings with the Maori, selling them muskets at increasingly inflated prices.

The Maoris’ acquisition of firearms radically changes the scale of their tradition of payback for a death, with many dying instead of a few.

Munro tries in vain to convince the rival tribes to make peace but inevitably the film surges towards a musket-fuelled climax.

A fearsome sight is the haka performed by a big Maori army as a war dance, right before a terrible battle, where the fearless warriors go headlong into a tragic slaughter.

Lee Tamahori, born to a Maori father and British mother, has created a memorable picture of the traditional Maori warrior culture, with a big Maori cast speaking in the Maori language. There are only two notable white characters, Munro and Charlotte (Jacqueline McKenzie), widow of a fallen Maori warrior, who knows the Maori language and customs.



Tamahori wrote the script with Shane Danielsen, inspired by Hamish Clayton’s novel Wulf.

The Convert starts slowly, with Munro’s arrival and his early encounters with the Maori tribes and the people of Epsworth, gradually building up to the dramatic climax.

The film is visually stunning, with cinematographer Gin Loane making the most of the dramatic New Zealand landscape. The period Maori settings, costumes and face tattoos, are impressively authentic.

 The Convert opens on Thursday, June 20, at Luna Leederville, Luna On Essex and the Windsor Cinema.

Watch the trailer…