With The Ground We Won New Zealand filmmakers Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith have created a beautifully shot, and deeply moving documentary that examines small town New Zealand, and the game of rugby, and how the two are linked as a right of passage for a very close and spirited New Zealand farming community.
The town of Reporoa, New Zealand is home to close to about 500 people as of the last census, and this distinctly rural farming community is dedicated to each other, and the national game or rugby that they love with a passion. It’s this passion that fuels The Ground We Won as the Reporoa Rugby Club, as they strive fore victory on the pitch.
On Saturday 18 April a special gala premiere was held at The Civic Theatre in Auckland, and it seemed like all of Reporoa turned out for the event! The characters of the film were all there, Broomy, Peanut, Kelvin (Slug), and their teammates, all dressed to the nines, and celebrating with their community in relation to this amazing journey that they’ve all been on.
I was luckily enough to get the chance to talk with directing/producer partnership behind The Ground We Won, Christopher Pryor, and Miriam Smith, and got to ask them about how there perspectives as self-proclaimed “rugby outsiders “shaped their work on the film.
“This film asks, among other things, why it is that this particular aspect of our culture – rugby – is so important to so many people. It’s much easier as an ‘outsider’ to identify and challenge a lot of those basic assumptions that are typically at work when attempting to answer this question. If we are to gain any new insight into this deeply familiar world, it is vital that we can collectively see it afresh – in a new light. Therefore even on a nuts-and-bolts filmmaking level too, it’s really useful that we’re not bound to do what has been ‘done before’ in terms of those basic elements of cinematography, sound and music.”
This insight was revealing of their motivation to make the film. We were also interested in the characters that they said they met, and if and how thy mirrored the New Zealand character, and its fascination and affinity for rugby.
“We felt that filming real life within a rural rugby club would create an important window into better understanding ideas around male identity here in New Zealand. Throughout the film, the camera stays closest to the three central characters – Peanut, Broomy & Kelvin (Slug) – who exemplify three different stages of manhood – from adolescence, to adult responsibilities and fatherhood. When the lens is cast wider on the rugby team as a whole, it’s exploring the teams rituals and rites of passage. We were looking to capture this world from a consciously male perspective, like exploring a modern sort of male tribalism – one that we feel speaks to the experience of many men today.”
Upon getting the chance to finally see the film, Pryor and Smith’s words came to life, coupled with the cheers, and laughter of the Reporoa section of the theatre. The Ground We Won was a definite cinematic experience with a strong real life dramatic thread, coupled with the passion for the game, and the unexpected and high infectious comedic moments that came out of this unique slice of life experience.
A grand night was had by all, with everyone in the theatre understanding that they had been a part of a New Zealand cinematic event, and we also made some great new mates over a few beers. While the citizens of Reperoa might not have be too comfortable with swapping stubbies and singlets for suits and ties, this was a night worth celebrating and one us ‘townies’ will not be forgetting in a hurry.
The Ground We Won is in cinemas now.