Brian Butler March 28, 2022

Trans actor Elz Carrad is the magical glue in Rurangi- a story about identity, acceptance and conflict in a small rural part of New Zealand.

Elz plays Caz Davis, returning home to a politically divisive dairy farming community after 10 years away. Coming back after his gender transition, he faces conflicts in all those he loves – his childhood best friend, Lesbian Anahera (Awinha Rose Henare Ashby), who is trying to reconnect to her Māori cultural roots, his father Gerald (Kirk Torrance), who can’t get his head round his son’s transitioning, ex-boyfriend Jem ( Arlo Green), who finds the spark of love renewed, and his own inner conflict over his mental instability, and guilt he was away when his beloved mother died.

There’s also conflict in the small community as Gerald tries to persuade his hostile fellow-farmers to stop using chemical fertilisers, which he says are linked to his wife’s premature death from cancer.

There’s also a sketchily delineated back-story, where Trans activist Caz has an affair with a married, outwardly straight national sportsman, who subsequently kills himself.

Writers Cole Meyers and Oliver Page blend all these elements -true identity, cultural background, mental health and environmentalism in a perfectly balanced but mostly dark drama. Elz is outstanding as the broody, shy Caz, whose inner anger and frustration surfaces from time to time. Arlo is touching as the confused ex-boyfriend who still sees what he loves in the transitioned Caz.

Director Max Currie lets the bleak landscape and the conflicted characters tell the story, and the plot resolution, when it comes, is incomplete but full of hope. There are some terrific lines of dialogue: Jem tells Caz: “you’re like the same, but you’re not”, and he adds: “ gender-it’s complicated; you were never exactly girly”. In a sickbed reconciliation, father Gerald tells Caz:” It’s not my world… I want you here”.

Anahera has the final word on this: “ most people are just idiots about other people’s sexuality. You just do you”.

Rurangi is in cinemas and on demand from Peccadilllo Pictures –