A South Auckland petrol station is the setting for this independent drama about graveyard shift worker Tania (Sophie Henderson, also the film’s writer and based on her one-woman stageplay), whose long nights are spent chipping away at the savings she needs to leave with her little brother in search of their father.... More

Raised Maori, Tania’s bonds to her whanau underpin a life spent caring for her ailing mother during the day and preparing to take her brother Piwakawaka overseas. But as he leaves to pick kiwifruit and Tania is stuck at the gas station with a slack manager and an eagle-eyed regional supervisor, it seems she’s not able to look after her family to the same extent. 

A product of the NZ Film Commission’s Escalator scheme, this low-budget feature, shot in just 20 days, brings Henderson’s piece to the big screen courtesy of first-time director Curtis Vowell.Hide

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Flicks Review

In similar fashion to 2013’s Oscar Wilde-inspired The Selfish Giant, Fantail brings a Maori fable to a local lower-class setting. Mostly set at a South Auckland petrol station, first-time feature director Curtis Vowell achieves the sombre look and visual grit such a lonesome location requires, allowing actress/writer/wife Sophie Henderson to soak it all up with her vibrant, absorbing performance.... More

Equipped with a well-realised vernacular (her F-bombs amaze), Henderson delivers an endearingly brave portrayal of a fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, bro-speaking Maori woman Tania – an act that could have easily collapsed into ridiculousness, or even offended, in less capable hands.

Jared Rawiri shows a great array of comedic talents as ‘pakeha’ed Maori’ Dean, whose anal-retentive confusion towards Tania’s ‘Maori’ed pakeha’ leads to some great displays of ignorance (“Stop talking like a gangsta; it’s not attractive”). It’s a constant joy seeing Tania not give a single shit about his comments, cheekily criticising Dean’s Oreo complex every moment she gets.

Some of Rawiri’s goofier moments, however, feel distractingly misplaced – one scene has Dean trying to impress Tania by sculling energy drinks wrapped around another scene of young teens smoking meth.

The film’s highlighting of contemporary cultural confusion can also sometimes feel too on-the-nose (the pair literally compares skin colour at one point) and the ending writes Dean out rather abruptly, not doing anything with his established insecurities about (not) being Maori. As a result, Tania’s romantic investment in him seem both unfulfilling and inconsequential to the film’s eventual conclusion. It’s frustrating, because when Fantail aims for arrow-to-the-heart drama, it pierces.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

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BY Ponyboy lister

This is a great wee film to watch on a Sunday morning. Great performances and themes. Sometimes the lack of budget showed through but the film comission did a great job in funding this film as we need to tell more NZ stories and this is a special wee film.

BY Cheesy nobody

Fantail is gorgeous, touching, shocking, heart warming - everything you could want really. It's also beautifully written, performed and directed. ALL the performances are stellar. That this film was shot in such a short time and completed on a shoe string just adds to the appeal. Congratulations to everyone involved. What an achievement. I love a film that I'm still thinking about days later when so many are forgotten within minutes.

BY freshdude superstar

FANTAIL joins the list of truly great and genuine New Zealand films. It is a small, touching unpredictable and engaging film. Written and featuring an impressive performance by Sophie Henderson, the film touches important themes such as cultural identity and familial longing. Jarod Rawiri who plays Dean, the regional supervisor, provides plenty of light relief through his often silly attitude.
If like me you loved previous wee NZ films such as MATARIKI, THE STRENGTH OF WATER and SHOPPING, make... More sure you catch FANTAIL at a cinema near you (or not so near, considering only a few theatres in the country are choosing to support genuine NZ films - as opposed to Hollywood films filmed in NZ ... just saying !)Hide

About time New Zealand came up with a classy little indie movie. Different, beautifully shot and acted, Fantail is a sweetly balanced tragedy-with-funny bits. I don't know why I was so surprised that a NZ film could be so good. Looking forward to seeing this director's next movie and hopefully plenty more from the stunning cast. LOVED it.

BY Ian_Anderson superstar

Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a Maori, a blue eyed blonde Maori. She works the night shift at a South Auckland petrol station. She and her younger brother Pi are saving money for a trip to Surfers to visit their dad and the fun parks there. New regional manager, Dean (Jared Rawiri), shows up, and keeps showing up. Dean is a little too full of himself and provides most of the comedy moments in the film, providing the counter balance to Tania's seriousness and single mindedness. Fantail is a New... More Zealand film, so it is not all laughs on the night shift.

Hats off to writer / actor Sophie Henderson and first time film director Curtis Vowell for striking the right balance in portraying a believable Tania while avoiding the pitfalls of farce or being patronising. I'm glad this film came back from last year's International Film Festival, it deserves a wider audience.Hide

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