In an unprecedented documentary experience, documentary filmmakers Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith provide a rare and deeply personal view of the New Zealand character with their ode to the game of rugby, and its meaning and significance to one New Zealand town in The Ground We Won.
Set in the rural farming community of Reporoa, New Zealand, where the local populace is outnumbered by cows, and 80 hour work weeks milking cows are a given, the weekends become a sacred time for rugby and mateship, as the Reporoa Rugby Team set their sights towards becoming champions during the 2013 season.
Rugby As Way Of Life
From the outset both Pryor and Smith are unseen, behind the lens, never intruding on their subjects or their rural way of life, and letting them speak for themselves. Through this unhindered fly-on-the-wall perspective audiences are fully opened up to the unfiltered world of the players as both farmers and rugby stars. There’s no censorship here, and these quintessential kiwi characters, with club names such as Broomy, Peanut and Slug come out to play. In the role of the clubs general is Broomy, a shoe-in for a Ritchie McCaw heartthrob country boy look alike, and the team’s dedicated social captain both on and off the field. He’s the last one to leave the pitch and the first one to throw a beer back, as he leads his squad to victory on the field, and in the celebrations that occur after. While Broomy does face some doubts in regards to his playing career, it’s a part of him that will never, ever leave. The squad’s young gun, and the general butt of their jokes, as they inherently try to man him up is Peanut, a seventeen year old farmer whose keen to one day own his own farm, as well as survive his initial hazing experience from the older players. While his talents on the field aren’t always recognized by the other players, he soon becomes an integral member of the squad, as his own youthful journey from boy to man is mirrored in the game that he plays, and the squad and community that he belongs to. Finally their’s Kelvin aka Slug, a single father of two twin boys who is balancing fatherhood, and farming with the game that he loves. Kelvin is ultimately the heart of the team, the quintessential Kiwi farmer, and rugby nut who’s in the thick of the action both on and off the field, and who takes time out to coach the younger members of Reporoa, fostering in them a love for the game that means so much to him.
Watching these men play the game that they love you come to understand the deep sense of mateship and comradeship that underpins their club, their community, and their way of life. These players live for one another, and the game that binds them, and The Ground We Won expresses this flawlessly. From hard won games on the turf to uncontrollable after match drinking sessions, as well as their hilariously funny and real personal lives, as well what they get up to in their ‘day jobs’ as farmers, all of it is captured on screen in a fully rendered and beautifully shot movie that allows these hard won battlers to tell their story.
The Soul Of A Community
While rugby makes up the major part of The Ground We Won, the film is nothing without the small town New Zealand character of Reporoa. It’s a place where the farming is long and hard, where men are real men, and where the quintessential do it yourself New Zealand character was born. Pryor and Smith make sure to balance enough of Reporoa’s rural life with that of the local rugby club for a look inside the quintessential Kiwi community who are behind their boys through all of their trials and tribulations. The Ground We Won belongs as much to the community of Reporoa as it does to the players, and is all the more stronger for it.
The Ground We Won is an authentic slice-of-life documentary that showcases a side of the local landscape that few will ever see in it’s most personal and unfiltered presence. It’s an instant classic that will resonate with audiences long after the final frame has rolled, and will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Moving, funny, at times heart wrenching and pulse pounding as the team rush towards a final try, The Ground We Won is a marvelous cinematic experience, and one of the truest representations of the New Zealand character ever committed to film.