BFI Flare 2021 presents Rūrangi, arriving in cinemas and on digital February 25th 2022. This review was first published in March 2021.
Ten years away from your hometown and family is not easy. But, when those ten years have seen you embrace your gender identity and become a passionate trans activist, the idea of home may seem like even more of a distant memory. For Caz (Elz Carrad), home is the small town of Rūrangi, New Zealand, and after abruptly leaving ten years prior, Caz is finally heading home. However, will anyone recognise them? And will their dad finally accept the reasons for their sudden departure? As Caz drives into the night, a lifetime of emotions build-up, from fear to pain, loss and insecurity. Here Caz’s activist life in Auckland now feels hollow without the reconciliation and peace of family and friends.
Their arrival back in town is caught in a whirlwind of doubt as they walk up the steps to the home of their childhood friend Anahera (Awhina Rose Ashby). But as the door opens and Anahera looks out, Caz finds their words stumbling as they awkwardly introduce themselves. Here Anahera’s mind is initially blank as she stares at the young man on the doorstep. But as she looks into Caz’s eyes, she quickly sees her missing best friend staring back.
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Initially devised as a five-part web series, director Max Currie weaves together all five episodes to create his feature-length film. This comes with a risk, as demonstrated in I Am Syd Stone, where the original episodic structure felt disjointed as a whole. However, Currie broadly avoids this risk in what is undoubtedly a groundbreaking trans movie. Here, Currie’s picture is one of the most assured, tender, and powerful explorations of the trans experience I have seen onscreen so far.
Caz’s journey is embedded in a post-transition narrative that focuses on the differing experiences of trans life in cities and rural communities. While at the same time embracing discussions on indirect discrimination, community belonging, reconciliation and transformation. As Caz rebuilds a world long since lost, each conversation, interaction, and step form part of a broader healing process. Elz Carrad anchors their performance in a blaze of emotion and joy as Caz’s journey weaves its way toward an open conclusion. But equally impressive is Rūrangi’s reflections on Maori culture and intersectionality of experience. Here themes of culture and identity are weaved into the fabric of Caz’s journey. The result is a film that, while occasionally lacking a smooth narrative path, is a trailblazer in representation, its final message of hope, optimism and healing rooted in individual and community transformation.
Elz Carrad anchors their performance in a blaze of emotion and joy as Caz’s journey weaves its way toward an open conclusion. But equally impressive is Rūrangi’s reflections on Maori culture and intersectionality of experience.