Set on Waiheke Island, three fugitive orphans – Tibs (Hanelle Harris), Kenae (Calae Hignett-Morgan) Jesse (Jesse-James Rehu Pickery) – are on the run from the mainland. Stealing from the supermarket and snatching bags is how it all begins before everything spirals out of control when the three stowaways decide to break into a wealthy Island holiday home. Everything seems to be working out as planned, or so they think.
However, trouble is brewing as the property owner, Jeremy (Colin Moy), unexpectedly returns home later that evening to find a teenage girl standing in the doorway in nothing but his dressing gown. The kids take control of what appears to be your typical hostage situation but as things unravel the tables are ever turning and it becomes evident that there is not only one victim but four, and they are all forced to face the demons of their past.
The multi-talented cast all excel, especially Calae Hignett-Morgan portraying pre-teen Kenae. This newcomer gives a cheeky yet mature performance that was a total crowd pleaser. As the only female protagonist, Hannelle Harris beautifully portrayed Tibs, a strong yet extremely vulnerable character, who is seen as the mother figure throughout. Jesse-James Rehu Pickery plays the thrill seeking older brother Jesse, who although he doesn’t have many lines he still manages to bring a fully formed character to life. The extremely talented Colin Moy brought power and selflessness to his performance, allowing the audience to really connect with his character and his grief.
Orphans & Kingdoms is a touching story that delves into lost relationships while unfolding themes of loss, pain and redemption. It’s a beautifully written script by New Zealand filmmaker Paolo Rotondo and produced by Fraser Brown. Rotondo introduced his film on the night as ‘the little film that could’ and when asked about the inspiration for the story he simply said ‘I stole it from the news stories that are told and then forgotten’.
It comes as no surprise to me that this powerful film has won numerous awards including ‘Best Feature Film’ at the Anchorage International Film Festival, a Silver Medal at the Global Music Awards and best editor at the NZ Film Awards.
Orphans & Kingdoms is a truly stunning piece of New Zealand filmmaking that really captures the raw reality of stories often ignored.