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Film to pack a punch at festival

Emerging actor Jordan Oosterhof [left] stars alongside Hollywood heavyweight Tim Roth in New Zealand independent film Punch. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The Wairarapa programme for the 2022 New Zealand International Film Festival will include a visit from an up-and-coming Kiwi director, whose latest film features a Hollywood legend in the starring role.

Punch, a gritty, coming-of-age drama set in provincial New Zealand, opens in Masterton this week, one of 24 to be screened at Regent 3 Cinemas as part of this year’s festival.

This weekend, the cinema, in partnership with Film Talks, will be hosting a special screening of Punch, featuring a Q&A session with director and screenwriter Welby Ings – who will be travelling from Auckland for the occasion.

Ings’ film, his first feature-length project, stars BAFTA-winning actor and Academy Award nominee Tim Roth, best known for his scene-stealing roles in Rob Roy, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and TV crime drama Tin Star.

Appearing alongside Roth are emerging New Zealand performers Jordan Oosterhof and Conan Hayes: who play a young couple struggling with self-discovery, fractured parental relationships, and small-town prejudice.

Film Talks director Jane Ross said Punch’s top-billed casting certainly “piqued [her] interest” but she was particularly drawn to its “beautifully-scripted” story and hard-hitting social commentary.

She anticipated the film would be deeply resonant for audiences.

“It’s a powerful story and one that could be set in any small New Zealand town,” Ross said.

“It explores issues like masculinity, identity, addiction, and mental health and how that plays out in a rural environment. I think a lot of people will be able to relate.

“It’s an important story and it’s a privilege to bring it to the Wairarapa community.”

Ings, a professor of art and design at Auckland University of Technology, is an author, illustrator, LGBTQ+ activist, and renowned director of short films.

Three of his projects, Boy, Munted, and Sparrow, have been selected for international film festivals, including Cannes.

Punch, a project over a decade in the making, is the story of Jim [Oosterhof], a teen boxing prodigy, coached by his alcoholic father [Roth].

Jim’s sporting ambitions are sidelined when he begins wrestling with his sexuality, developing feelings for Whetu [Hayes], a takatapui [queer] musician and schoolmate.

Roth travelled to New Zealand in 2020, in between lockdowns, to take part in the film, which was shot mostly on Auckland’s west coast.

“As an up-and-coming New Zealand filmmaker, you’d have to write a pretty special script to attract someone of his calibre, which Welby has clearly done,” Ross said.

“It was awesome to see Roth act alongside two young Kiwi actors.”

Ross said she was hopeful the screening would attract aspiring Wairarapa filmmakers, as Ings will doubtlessly have wisdom to share about his directing and screenwriting processes.

Punch opens at Regent 3 on August 18 and runs until August 31. The Q&A screening featuring director Welby Ings will be held on Saturday, August 20, starting at 5.15pm. The film is R16, and includes violence, sex scenes, drug use and offensive language.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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