Kaikohe made world news in 1991 when children there attacked Santa in the Christmas parade. It’s not an easy image to dislodge, one of the locals admits ruefully, but if anything can do the trick it is Florian Habicht’s empathetic, funny account of small-town life on the poverty line, as told by those living it. The only violence in this Kaikohe occurs at Demolition Derbys, which seem to coincide with every festive date on the calendar, including Mother’s Day. It’s no surprise that Habicht, who made a ‘dump hand’ the hero of last year’s Woodenhead, can find the flamboyance and poetry in the spectacle of mobilised car-wreckage (he mostly spares us the noise). But what’s most arresting about his film is his easy intimacy with the drivers. ‘Putting a little more tread in the tyres’ with a chainsaw, for example, they explain their sport, regale us with their exploits, and finally, relaxing in a hot mineral pool after a hard day at the track, speak with candour, laughter and amazing grace about life in general.
- Bill Gosden, New Zealand International Film Festival
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