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Somehow or other last week had us viewing two coming of age movies of young boys.  One, Theeb (see below) taking place in the deserts of the Levant during WWI, the second, Hunt for the Wilderpeople,(2016) in roughly contemporary times, is in the outback of New Zealand.  Ricky, (Julian Dennison) in the island’s green green hills is quite a brat, and twice the weight of Theeb in desert dry Lebanon.  Theeb, is a war fighting adventure film and serious from beginning to end.  Ricky and his foster uncle, curmudgeonly Hec (Sam Neill), though fleeing from a full scale manhunt, play for the laughs, even as they face serious issues of escape and evasion.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on a 1986 book, Wild Pork and Watercress, by famed outdoorsman, actor and writer, Barry Crump.  As with Theeb, however,  the director, Taika Waititi, comes from the culture and people he is portraying, in his case, the Maori.  While this doesn’t guaranteMovies Hunt for the Wilderpeoplee a good film it does mean that if it’s good it will be good in a fuller and more closely observed way than one by an outsider coming in to film after a several week cram course.  Waititi comes from the Raukokore region of the New Zealand East Coast, of a native father (Te-Whanau-a-Apanui) and a Jewish mother. He plays an amusing, cameo role as a Christian minister in the film. 

Ricky, of course, leaves his brattiness behind as he learns and grows, camping out, eating found critters, keeping up with his outdoorsman uncle.  Character actors fill the role of the child protective services demons, local townspeople, an earth-mother or two for an enjoyable romp in an out of the way place – and certainly different than all the Xena:Warrior PrincessLord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia shot there.