Episode 38: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Back from their shark-chomping holiday on Amity Island last episode, Sean and Cody head into the wilds of the New Zealand forest to track down Taika Waititi’s 2016 charming comedy-drama. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, after the foster mom of juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) unexpectedly drops dead, Ricky flees into the bush with the irascible, illiterate mountain man Hec (Sam Neill) to escape the authorities. As they dodge deranged hunters, wild boars and a child services division as heavily armed as Iraq’s Republican Guard, Ricky and Hec find their wilderness odyssey an unexpected bonding experience. Environmental issues discussed include the cultural mythology of the “Southern Man” in New Zealand folklore, indigenous rights and identity in New Zealand, species extinction and more.

What is the “Southern Man” trope and why will most viewers of this film who are not New Zealanders completely miss it? Is the Marlboro Man a symbol of genocide? Was New Zealand really uninhabited by humans until the 14th century? What’s the Treaty of Waitangi and why are the Maori unique in the colonialist history of the British Empire? Is it true you can’t get drunk off Speight beer? When was the huia bird last seen alive? Who’s Crump’s brother? How do you use sex to sell Cadbury flake chocolate? Do child services divisions really have airborne troops and attack helicopters? How many ways can you pronounce the words “Mary McGregor”? All these questions and more are waiting where the earth wets the cloak of the sky in this episode of Green Screen.

Note: Green Screen will be on a brief hiatus for a few weeks in July-August 2021.

Original 2016 trailer for Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) finally gets a little tenderness from his eccentric new foster mother, Bella (Rema te Wiata). Hec (Sam Neill) is unimpressed. The family bonding early in the film is merely the set-up for the bulk of the story.
The funeral for Bella proves unexpectedly bizarre. In this amusing scene from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, director Taika Waititi makes a cameo as the priest. He has said this scene was based on a real funeral that he once attended.
Conspiracy nut Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby) offers Ricky and Hec an unexpected escape: a Toyota Hilux Ute. This is an in-joke, as the author of the book on which Hunt for the Wilderpeople was based, Barry Crump, was the pitchman for the Hilux Ute in 1980s-90s TV commercials.
The highly militarized New Zealand child services division goes after Ricky Baker with all it’s got in this climactic scene from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. (Some spoilers, theoretically).

Additional Materials About This Episode:

The “Southern Man”:

“How to Be a Southern Man,” article from Teara.govt.nz, an online encyclopedia of New Zealand culture:
https://teara.govt.nz/en/ephemera/29266/southern-man

southern man

Speight (beer) ad from mid-1980s featuring the “Southern Man” trope. Source: same as above (Teara.govt.nz).

Lawrence and Gibson, “Is There a Place for the Soutghern Man in Today’s NZ?”, Scoop Culture, March 6, 2012:
https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1203/S00105/is-there-a-place-for-the-southern-man-in-todays-nz.htm

New Zealand Environmental History Generally

Eric Pawson & Tom Brooking, eds., Environmental Histories of New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 2002 (Archive.org link):
https://archive.org/details/environmentalhis0000unse

Paul Star, “New Zealand Environmental History: A Question of Attitudes,” Environment and History, Vol. 9., No. 4, November 2003:
https://www.jstor.org/stable/20723459

Janet M. Wilmshurst, Terry L. Hunt, Carl P. Lipo & Atholl J. Anderson, “High-Precision Radiocarbon Dating Shows Recent and Rapid Initial Human Colonization of East Polynesia,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 108, No. 5 (February 2011):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3033267/

Maori History

Catherine Knight, Ravaged Beauty: An Environmental History of the Manawatu, Totara Press, 2018:
https://www.wheelers.co.nz/books/9780473451561-ravaged-beauty-an-environmental-history-of-the-manawatu/?publisher=Totara%20Press

Tina Makereti, Where the Rekohu Bone Sings (novel), 2014 (Amazon link):
https://www.amazon.com/Where-Rekohu-Bone-Sings-Makereti-ebook/dp/B00H89IJM2/

The Huia

Emma Dorey, “Huia Cloned Back to Life?”, Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 17 (August 1999):
https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt0899_736c

The Movie:

Steve Kilgallon, “Behind the Scenes of Wilderpeople: Mud, Snow, Kids and Fake Pigs,” Stuff.co.nz, April 7, 2016:
https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/78529380/behind-the-scenes-of-wilderpeople-mud-snow-kids-and-fake-pigs

Cadbury “Light as a Feather” commercial, 1983 (page contains embedded video):
https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/light-as-feather-cadbury-flake-1983

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4698684/
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople/

Next Up: Green Screen Clip Show & Retrospective Episode

The image associated with Hunt for the Wilderpeople is presumably copyright (C) 2016 by Defender Films and/or any other production company. Its inclusion here is believed to be permissible under fair use. We are not the uploader of any YouTube clips embedded here.

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