By HAZEL REID
Directed by Queernation TV host and Shortland Street writer, Max Currie brings the story of young trans activist Caz Davis to the screen in Rūrangi, premiering as part of the Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2020 programme.
The groundbreaking web series is lead actor Elz Carrad’s screen debut and follows his character (Caz) fleeing his hometown (Rūrangi) in hopes of finding himself while connecting with his past. The series had the world premiere over the weekend at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland as part of this year’s programme with Elz sharing that he hopes viewers take away “a sense of familiarity and brings people together” after watching Rūrangi.
Rūrangi is Elz’s screen debut. He comes from a musical background, previously being a singer. He candidly shared with us that “after a couple of cycles of hormone replacement therapy my voice just wasn’t the same and it put me off singing. I still needed a creative outlet and a way to express myself… acting was always something I’d wanted to do anyway so I thought I’d give it a go. I reached out to a couple of actors I knew for some guidance and got stuck in, I was obsessed.”
Elz has already had audiences singing his praises for his portrayal of Caz and has his sights set on trying different genres in the future. “I’m a pretty serious dude most times but I’d like to try comedy one day”, looking namely at the work of actors Michael Cera and Steve Carell. The Hokianga-born creative is currently dividing time between managing a small Central Auckland warehouse as his day job, studying to be a personal trainer, and raising his family with his partner Dana. Even with a busy life already we think it won’t be too long before we see him showing his creative side once again – here’s hoping for Rūrangi Season 2!
Leading the series: Director Max Currie and Elz Carrad.
Director Max Currie, whose past credits include his 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival screened project Everything We Loved, sounded proud that Rūrangi was the “first-ever web-series invited to screen in NZIFF proves what New Zealand’s gender diverse community can achieve when they’re given creative power and opportunity.” Max enjoyed getting to “see his collaborators shine and getting to be there for the arrival of a new kind of star – Elz Carrad” while working on the project.
Max mentioned the “fraction of resources” they had to create Rūrangi in comparison to “lavishly funded industry veterans”, which is a massive feat. The Rūrangi internship program would have been able to make a big contribution. The producer’s (Craig Gainsborough) right-hand guy Lucean Lunare’s hard work and dedication shone through all areas of production including passionately ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities and casting gender-diverse people and allies as background talent.
The Rūrangi internship programme was another reason why this project was so special, as it gave six gender diverse people the chance to intern and gain knowledge and experience from industry mentors – from directing to camera to wardrobe, art department and editing, to production where producer intern Lucean Lunare shone brightly. He shared that he hoped viewers, including the members of the gender diverse community, saw in Rūrangi that “you are important, that you can be heard, respected and supported and that you are worthy. For allies – that you understand your loved ones (or future loved ones!) on a deeper level.”
Rūrangi is available now to rent online (until 1st August) via Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival website.
Rated M. Languages: English and Te Reo Māori (with English subtitles).