Christopher Pryor, NZ 2015, 91'
The Ground We Won
European Premiere
Thu 13.8.2015, 11.00 Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Fri 14.8.2015, 14:00 Palavideo

en / it / de / fr

Reporoa, New Zealand. Filmmakers Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith spent almost a year in this heartland of the North Island to investigate two of their country’s main pillars: farming and rugby. They immersed themselves in a very masculine world, accompanying the local rugby team whose players mainly work as farmers. The situation comes to a head when – after a series of sporting failures – these farming rugby players have to intensify their training in order to climb the league table and regain their authority, without neglecting their livestock and the harvests.

The filmmakers capture the universe of these people and their landscape in stunning black and white cinemascope. They depict their daily lives between the field and the pitch in a succession of hauntingly beautiful shots that at times adopt an almost dreamlike quality. The ergonomic framing and the playful variation of depth of field create strangely contemplative sequences that are at the same time firmly grounded and still removed from reality.

Apart from its hypnotic aesthetic style, «The Ground We Won» adopts a captivating approach. Pryor and Smith set up their camera at a slight distance, and thus avoid any hint of sentimentalism. Moreover, they also refrain from judging their protagonists. This in turn allows the men to gradually open up, with every match played and every pint enjoyed. There are no interviews, and the team is introduced by following some of its players: Peanut, for instance, an adolescent who has to come to terms with his masculinity; or Kelvin, a single dad raising two kids; or Broomy, the team captain, who works on the family farm.

At first glance, «The Ground We Won» comes across as a portrait of a rural microcosm. More lastingly, however, it is a precise and at the same time lyrical analysis of social challenges. Deceptively harmless, the film succeeds in breaking its local barriers in order to open up a universal dimension. It delicately captures the prevailing camaraderie, the ubiquitous integrity as well as the escapist space that sport provides. Therefore, this film is not specially geared at rugby fans – Pryor and Smith admitted that they were novices to the sport. Rather it offers an unusual, empathetic and amusing observation of this environment, an experience that is intensified by its excellent implementation.

Loïc Valceschini