This utterly unique documentary starts out as a love letter to small town New Zealand and develops into a delightful, uplifting ode to working as a team and achieving one’s goals. It’s an epic fantasy quest following a band of Kiwi knights who go to the opposite side of the world to fight for national honour.
Medieval combat as a modern competitive sport is bonkers. In both one-on-one matches and group battles, players put on a suit of armour and, yes, bludgeon each other into submission using swords, axes, maces and so on. There are, of course, frequent injuries; but the blunted weaponry thankfully means there’s no flying limbs or actual death.
It’s one of those niche things that only a tiny number of people care for, but holy shit that tiny number love it a lot. They live for it. This sort of obsession usually always makes for an interesting film, but rarely do we get a set of characters as fascinating as those collected together in Bludgeon. The primary hero is Nick from Rotorua, a mulleted sweetheart whose eternal optimism is truly beautiful. Some of his fellow warriors are just as charming – one or two are most definitely not – but it’s impossible to not root for them as a group.
Directors Ryan Heron and Andy Deere have shot the film beautifully, succinctly using visual storytelling along with the interviews. They also keep the tone cheerful and mostly avoid mockery, although you can’t help but laugh at some of the sillier things that get said. As interesting as the medieval combat is, what I like most about Bludgeon is how it illustrates the New Zealand psyche. It goes together well with Kaikohe Demolition and Hip Hop-eration, and would be lovely to see with an audience.