In My Father's Den - DVD Review

'I am in danger of becoming a massive fan of the quietly introspective yet outwardly challenging New Zealanders'

I’ve never been a proponent of any particular country’s film output. I don’t for example, champion the art-house French or the macabre Eastern European (I’d struggle to give you an example of either of these by the way and suspect I may just have made up two new sub genres on the spot). That is until, possibly, now where I feel I am in danger of becoming a massive fan of the quietly introspective yet outwardly challenging New Zealanders.

In My Father’s Den is a joint-funded venture by both the British and New Zealand film council and so really does fit squarely into my court of current interest. Like the utterly brilliant Out of The Blue before it and the even quieter than quiet Whale Rider, the film seems to exist in a time and place that isn’t quite our own.

In broken and ethereal dialogue Matthew MacFayden’s world weary war photographer Paul, returns to his homeland where he is forced to relate to his brother and family, the passing of his father, the reasons why he left the island in the first place and the entrance into his life of a young female member of the community. It’s not just Paul’s dialogue that is broken either and an on-going theme is communication or the lack of it and the damage that this can do to people and the world at large.

There are smaller issues here as well and director Brad McGann zooms in to focus on the family unit, individual actions and even the significance of a picture or snapshot in time and life. I’m not sure this accurately describes it but with this and the two above films there is almost an air of humility that hangs round the entire picture, as if it recognises it is in a position of weighty importance. Before it closes on a suitably depressing and moral note of caution and acceptance, it is almost as if the film dofs its hat to you and thanks you kindly for watching.

There is an air about these films which is best described by the above paragraph but which really can only be described by experiencing it. The weightiness of the subject matter coupled with the honesty, thoroughness and humility of the presentation leads to patient, considered film making which has genuinely got me excited about the films made in this space and time, which simultaneously somehow seem to sit outside and above of it.


  1. Hi from a introspective Kiwi!! You know I always make a point of seeing and supporting kiwi films but I failed to get to this! I still haven't!
    I believe it is very good though and will get to it one day. Nice to know someone out there appreciates Kiwi cinema. It is somewhat over shadowed by Peter Jackson and suufers from acute under funding.

  2. This really is excellent (everything I've seen from New Zealand cinema has been at least 'good'). MacFayden is a fine actor anyway but in this he really shines. Great story, gut-wrenching, but great. Definitely seek it out when you can.

  3. 'Quietly introspective yet outwardly challenging New Zealanders'!!! Oh flattery indeed!!
    You know what? I failed to see this when it was released and still haven't I'm very ashamed to say. I always support Kiwi cinema but I just absolutely missed this. I do believe it is very good though and will get to it one day.
    It is interesting becuse you are the only cinema blogger that is watching, reviewing, or seemingly aware there is a cinema scene down under( although severely under funded ) on blogosphere!! I think most people now associate Peter Jackson as constituting our entire film industry. Problem is that alot of his success has seen the demise of local cinema through taxation etc. The government can earn more by screwing foreign film makers who come here to make movies than they can out of the local film makers. Problem is that they don't pass on any funding from that taxation.

  4. Sounds like the New Zealand film industry have big challenges to overcome!

    I'll basically watch anything from anywhere in the World but yes, the films I've seen from New Zealand have continually impressed me. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see more soon.

  5. Same!! I have no preference from where a film comes from. We seem to get a heap of French language comedies over anything thing else foreign wise. i don't mind as such as it mst mean the French have a strong film industry.
    We also get a lot of Aussie films understandably! They are generally really good.The best one recently was Animal kingdom which I recommend. It has caused a stir world wide and rightly so.

  6. Think I've just sorted out my copy of Animal Kingdom for when it's released here in July and yes, very much looking forward to it. The French film industry has always been strong but the vast amount of films it produces vary in quality at a similar rate to Hollywood's own mixed bag.