Posted Wednesday 02 Sep 2020
Producer Vicky Pope maintains her latest film Savage, released in New Zealand 10 September, is about compassion, despite its rather brutal title and violent trailer. Inspired by stories from New Zealand's boys' homes and the early history of our gangs, Savage follows Danny across three decades of his life, taking a deeper look at a boy who grows into the brutal enforcer of a gang, to understand how he got there.
"When we showed the film to a test screen of older women they actually responded to the emotional side of it, to the internal conversation that's going on within him. The trailer pushes the film to the younger male audience."
In development for eight years, Savage was written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Sam Kelly. Pope admits she struggled when asked if she'd be involved with the project.
"I'm Pakeha, I come from a privileged background, and I have no experience with [the subject matter]. My last film was about a gardening nun! So yes, it took me a while to figure out the kaupapa of the Savage. "
While the film is asking many people to understand what could be a completely different life experience to theirs, Pope says many of the wider cast said they had connections to the lifestyle in the film.
Pope hopes the film will raise awareness of the roots of gang culture and of the role of the state in it.
"[The film] is trying to talk beyond ethnicity, and say anyone thrown into those situations where systemic abuse occurred - well this is what happens."
She recalls getting a phone call from someone involved in New Zealand's Abuse in Care - Royal Commission of Inquiry who was "beside herself with joy that this film is out".
The film's release was delayed by Covid-19 restrictions, frustrating not only for Pope but also because so many people were waiting on it. Casting was a "massive" experience with a lot of community involvement.
"For a lot of people the film was a big life experience and more than anything I want the film to come out for them."
Savage is released in New Zealand cinemas on 3 September, 2020