The Dark Horse

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New Zealand | 2014 | 124 minutes | James Napier Robertson

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD | Best Film | Best Actor: Cliff Curtis. Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider) gives a stunning and inspirational performance as New Zealand legend Genesis Potini, a bipolar speed chess champion who helps turn around the lives of some 15,000 Maori children by teaching them the intricacies the game.

Winner of six New Zealand Film Awards including Best Picture, Director, and Actor, James Napier Robertson’s superbly realized biopic traces the damaged but ultimately rewarding life of legendary speed chess champion Genesis Potini, a.k.a. “the Dark Horse.” Cliff Curtis (Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider) gives a staggering performance as Potini, a Maori man who due to his struggles with bipolar disorder has spent time in and out of institutions. When suddenly confronted with a nephew (James Rolleston, Boy) who’s but a hair’s breadth away from gang life, Potini buckles down and joins the Eastern Knights chess association, using chess to turn around the lives of some 15,000 at-risk Maori kids. Carefully balancing humor with a raw and unpredictable style, The Dark Horse transcends its tried-and-true genre—the troubled mentor who despite all odds raises the spirits of a ragtag group of disadvantaged youth—and emerges as a deeply felt, wildly inspirational drama with a bite.

Director Biography
James Robertson started as an actor before switching to the other side of the camera. He wrote, directed, and edited his debut feature I’m Not Harry Jenson, which attracted The New Zealand Film Commission. Robertson explores dysfunctional and disoriented characters in his films.

  • Director: James Napier Robertson
  • Principal Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Xavier Horan, Miriama McDowell
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 124 minutes
  • Producer: Tom Hern
  • Screenplay: James Napier Robertson
  • Cinematographers: Denson Baker
  • Editors: Peter Roberts, Nicolas Chaudeurge
  • Music: Dana Lund
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Rotterdam Film Festival 2015 (Audience Award), New Zealand Film Awards 2014 (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Score), Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2014 (Best Actor), New Zealand Screen Awards 2014 (Best Screenplay)
  • Filmography: I'm Not Harry Jenson. (2009)
  • Language: English, Maori
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Séville International